The Forest (2016) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Forest (2016)



Critic Consensus: The Forest offers Natalie Dormer a few chances to showcase her range in a dual role, but they aren't enough to offset the fact that the movie's simply not all that scary.

Movie Info

Against the backdrop of Japan's Aokigahara forest, where people go to end their lives, an American woman braves the mysterious, uncharted terrain to search for her missing sister.more
Rating: PG-13 (for disturbing thematic content and images)
Genre: Drama, Horror
Directed By:
Written By: Sarah Cornwell, Nick Antosca, Ben Ketai
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 12, 2016
Gramercy Pictures


Osamu Tanpopo
as Homeless Man
Tanpopo Osamu
as Homeless Man
Yasuo Tobishima
as Sushi Chef
Ibuki Kaneda
as Mei (Schoolgirl)
Akiko Iwase
as Head Teacher
Kikuo Ichikawa
as Businessman
Yozef Aoki
as Visitor Center Morgu...
Gen Seto
as Narusawa Bartender
Terry Diab
as Grandma
Nada Mazalica
as Sara/Jess (Age 6)
Lidija Antonic
as Mother of Sara/Jess
Takako Akashi
as Ubasute Old Woman #1
Yuriri Naka
as Young Woman
Nemanja Naumoski
as Pillowcase Man
Tales Yamomoto
as Blue Tent Man
Meg Kubota
as Ubasute Old Woman #2
Mieko Wertheim
as Ubasute Old Woman #3
Carni Deric
as Father of Sara/Jess
Carni Djeric
as Father of Sara/Jess
Yoshio Hasegawa
as Aokigahara Police Se...
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Forest

Critic Reviews for The Forest

All Critics (113) | Top Critics (27)

A movie that had a lot of potential... and they wasted it all! [Full review in Spanish]

Full Review… | May 9, 2016

The premise and the setting are far more chilling than the film itself,.

Full Review… | April 14, 2016
John Hanlon Reviews

The film ends up becoming just another generic horror film. [Full review in Spanish]

Full Review… | April 7, 2016

There aren't many quality scares on display in this latest horror flop which spends most of its time over-explaining itself while offering very little excitement or interesting insight into its terribly unexplored and uncreative world of spirits.

Full Review… | March 31, 2016

Although the movie's hardly destined to figure on anyone's 'top ten horror movies' list, it's guaranteed to provide a few thrills and spills for the ninety-odd minutes you spend in its company in the multiplex.

Full Review… | March 10, 2016

Interesting proposal to mix a specific cultural tradition with a contemporary horror story, albeit with mixed results despite the good atmosphere. [Full review in Spanish]

Full Review… | March 7, 2016

Audience Reviews for The Forest

Psychological drama as one sister looks for the other sister in a Japanese forest famous for psychological drama. Everything the main character is told not to do, she does. It gets old fast. I began to pray for her death.

Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


The Forrest is an initially promising horror/thriller that abandons every interesting possibility with every turn, becoming another interchangeably shortsighted and mediocre movie that only manages to scare an audience with how bad it becomes.

Sara (Natalie Dormer) is investigating the disappearance of her twin sister, Jess (also Dormer). Jess was working as a teacher in Tokyo when she visited the Aokigahara forest at the base of Mt. Fuji. This forest is nicknamed the "suicide forest" because of its reputation for being a favored location for Japanese citizens to kill themselves. Sara tracks down her sister to her campsite in the forest, with the help of a guide (Yukiyoshi Ozawa) and Aiden (Taylor Kinney), a journalist interested in writing her story. The guide stresses they must stay on the path at all costs and not trust the sounds they hear. There are plenty of unhappy spirits inside and they're looking for permanent company.

The problem with dumb characters behaving stupidly is that it obliterates any investment the audience has in them, which is highly important in the horror and thriller genre. If you don't care about the characters then you don't care what happens next to them. With The Forest, we have characters that are wildly veering in the logistics of their decision-making that it becomes nigh impossible to care about what befalls them. They break the rules fairly early about staying on the path but the knowledge that everything they see is only a ghostly manifestation should register more. I understand that when you're in the middle of a fraught experience that perhaps fear can cloud the mind, but perhaps you should start second-guessing things like lost Japanese schoolgirls miraculously finding you in the woods, or the fact that your childhood home is recreated in Japan. It's scary, sure, but shouldn't these characters no better? Also, the second-guessing of what is real causes Sara to view Aiden with great suspicion, except when she remarkable forgets. We'll have a scene where she runs away from him out of paranoid fear, and then the next scene they're back hiking through the woods together. It starts to feel like no two scenes connect or build off one another and The Forest is just an aimless sprint through random spooky genre grist that keep scaring our dimwitted characters.

There's so much that is left unexplained, but not in some tantalizing way meant to provoke a greater sense of realism through ambiguity, but because the screenplay just can't be bothered. The premise of The Forest is great and the setting should be mined for all the unsettling dread that it could manage. The little details of this unique place sink in, like the lines of rope and string that lead off to, presumably, suicide victims hoping to lead others to their fateful resting places. There's something so brilliantly creepy about this place, and every length of rope that ventures deep into the woods has its own story and its own larger significance, symbolizing a life taken. Why does The Forest so rarely make use of the unique details of its setting? This location could have been any patch of woods with your standard unhappy ghosts to roam. That's the biggest failure of the movie, wasting the potential of its special location and making it indistinguishable from hundreds of other cheap horror settings.

Let's talk about some of those scares as well. The Forest abandons the unsettling atmosphere of its setting and the possibility of the fraying psychology of its character (coherent unraveling, I should say) for what amount to a relentless assault of cheap jump scares. The jump scare is the bottom of the barrel, utilizing sudden appearance to startle. It is ultimately empty and any movie that relies on a diet heavy on jump scares is essentially admitting that it could not build a tense environment on its own. It is admitting defeat, and that is what The Forest admits when it relies on a jump scare, I kid you not, like every five minutes. Oh no, something suddenly popped up and Sara jolted out of a dream. Oh no, something suddenly popped up and flew at the camera and Sara jolted out of a dream. Repeat as needed to pad the running time. It's tiresome and leads to diminishing returns. The only way jump scares work is when they are unexpected. If you start to anticipate them then they lose all of their power and relevance.

As the movie continued running in one direction and then suddenly running in another, I was reminded of 2014's Occulus. I wasn't completely taken with that horror movie but it is far better than The Forest. The premise of Occulus involves a brother and sister trying to prove a cursed mirror is responsible for a history of murder. The mirror would play with the minds of its victims by putting them in false settings and scenarios, thus creating illusions to trick them into deadly behavior. The difficult part of Occulus was that you couldn't trust what you were watching, which either forced the audience to pay more attention or to just give up and wait for the eventual reveals. The Forest is similar in that a good portion of its running time is a series of hallucinogenic tangents. Are there really maggots crawling under Sara's skin? Is that water in the creek running the wrong way? It becomes frustrating when the characters don't respond with nearly enough skepticism, especially when they're fooled again and again. Occulus, while purposely hard to follow, was worth watching and ultimately felt well developed. The Forest feels lost in the woods.

Unless you're a sucker for the kind of genre, there's nothing that The Forest does well enough to warrant a theatrical viewing. It's so frustrating because there are elements and potential there and the movie just continues to not care, falling back on the same-old same-old cheap jump scares and indistinguishable hackneyed genre tropes, losing sight of the inherent awe and fright of its special location. Dormer (HBO's Game of Thrones) gives a suitably spooked performance but does little to stand out amongst the scenery. If you're contemplating watching The Forest, just watch Occulus instead and be grateful.

Nate's Grade: C-

Nate Z.
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer


The only reason I went to go see this movie was for Natalie Dormer. I'm not a horror fan at all. In fact, I usually avoid them because they are usually full of the same old story beats and cliches, sadly, The Forest is yet another one of those films. It's not as awful as I had expected, though I expected complete trash, it's certainly far from a good or even average film.

The Forest tells the story of Sara Price, played by Dormer, who goes looking for her sister, Jess, in the Aokigahara Forest which is known to be a common destination for suicides. From there she encounters visions and 'supernatural things' that hinder her ability to continue her search for her sister. The problem with The Forest is virtually the same issue most horror films have had of recent memory, they just aren't scary. There are quite a few attempts at jump scares that may make you flinch, but there are no legitimate aspects to The Forest that will scare you.

Sara meets a tour guide and a seemingly harmless man as she begins her quest through the forest, and that part of the film interested me. The build up to the forest and the endless amount of possible directions they could have taken the story interested me far more than the forest itself. Natalie Dormer does what she can in hiding some of the stupidity of her character's decisions for the most part, but several frustratingly cliched moments follow.

This film had potential if it went down the psychological-horror route that some of the marketing seemed to hint at, but as I said before, nothing about this film stayed with me after I left the theater. Isn't that what Horror films are supposed to do and all about? Dormer's performance is enough to make it watchable but not enough to make it worth your money.


-Cliche filled

-Nothing is scary

-Attempt at weak and predictable jump scares


Thomas Drufke
Thomas Drufke

Super Reviewer

The Forest Quotes

Sara: I'm here for my sister. She went into a forest. I want to hire a guide.
– Submitted by rob g (5 months ago)
Sara: She's in trouble and she needs me.
– Submitted by rob g (5 months ago)

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