Forests are a potentially rich setting for horror: They offer primal terrors, isolation, lack of technology, and the possibility of getting lost and dying in the elements.  The new horror movie The Forest adds a new element to the mix: supernatural trickery.

Sara (Natalie Dormer) has a sense that her twin sister Jess (also played by Dormer) is in serious trouble.  Sara travels to Japan, where the last time anyone saw Jess, she was walking into the Aokigahara Forest.
 This forest is a source of fear and superstition for the locals.  Many people enter the forest to commit suicide.  Additionally, people believe that angry spirits inhabit the forest, using illusions and deception to drive people with sadness in their hearts to kill themselves.  Few will enter there at night, and Sara is warned not to leave the path.
Sara enters the forest with two guides: Aiden (Taylor Kinney), a travel reporter; and Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa), a local ranger.  When night falls, Michi leaves, but Sara and Aiden stay in the hopes that Jess will return to her campsite.  But there are lots of scary sounds, things seem to change all the time, and a Japanese schoolgirl warns Sara, "Don't trust him."

The Forest is a very routine, typical horror movie.  Most of the scares come from a jolt of music and something popping into view/at the camera.  The characters are paper thin, and Sara shows an amazing lack of preparation for someone trying to find someone in a forest.  (For example, she uses her cell phone for illumination instead of bringing a single flashlight.)  Instead of tapping into the rich potential of the unexplored forest, The Forest settles for mediocrity and basic scares.

Overall grade: C
Reviewed by James Lynch

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