THE FOREST

— by Jeff Schultz

Decent setup, lousy payoff, made even less compelling by the flat lead actress — doubly so, because she plays twins. The movie’s setting is a forest at the base of Japan’s Mt. Fuji, which is in fact a “popular” site for people to take their own lives. (It was actually shot in Serbia.) Natalie Dormer plays the sister who journeys to the forest, Aokigahara, to find her sibling who has disappeared; she refuses to believe it was suicide because of a “feeling” the woman is still alive. When Dormer locates an empty tent with the sister’s stuff inside, she makes the decision to wait through the night, despite urgent entreaties to get out before dark. The promise of scary happenings to come keeps us engrossed. But Dormer’s ghost-ridden “dark night of the soul” turns out to be pretty weak tea, and by the time a twisty development upends the adventure, you may be like me, scratching your head about what it all means. Rising star Taylor Kinney adds a touch of handsome charisma. And there’s a Japanese schoolgirl who keeps turning up in unsettling ways. But this is a FOREST that never catches fire.

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