Thursday, February 11, 2016

That Time When Margaery Tyrell Went to Japan, or Thoughts on The Forest

The always charming Natalie Dormer, who you know and love from that throne game show and that trilogy about being hungry, plays twin sisters with a psychic bond in The Forest, 2016, a movie that I really wish I could say I loved.  It has a great hook; blonde Natalie Dormer goes to Japan to look for missing brunette Natalie Dormer.  She ends up in Aokigahara Forest, an actual national park at the foot of Mt Fuji, where people have gone to die for the past 50 years.  It’s known globally as the suicide forest, and there are grisly photos online.  You know what will happen next…
Regrettably, The Forest suffers from frustrating lack of direction.  Is this a ghost story, a missing persons mystery, or a creepy psychological thriller?  I’m asking you because I couldn’t tell, and it seems first time director Jason Zada wasn’t certain either.  And as always, when you try to be all things to all people, you end up with a big pile of nothing.  Natalie Dormer is wasted as the levelheaded sister and the wildly impulsive fun twin, as is the eerily exotic setting and premise.
I was surprised that this movie isn’t the American version of a Japanese movie, like Ringu or Ju-on.  A quick Internet search reveals that there have only been two movies set in Aokigahara Forest, including this one.  (The other, Sea of Trees by Gus Van Sant 2015, currently holds a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes).  
If you want to see a genuinely scary Japanese ghost story starring actual Japanese actors, look no further than The Woman of the Snow in Kwaidan 怪談, (1964).  The Forest also missed a great opportunity in not licensing The Cure’s A Forest, for the opening credits, but you get twice as much Natalie  Dormer for your buck and for a true fan, that might be enough.

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).
 I wrote a short story about this very same forest in 2014.  Also with an original cover illustration!