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quinta-feira, 25 de fevereiro de 2016
The Forest review: 'barrel-scraping horror'
Natalie Dormer is menaced by digitally enhanced Japanese spirits in this scare-free supernatural thriller
Does the curse of Japan’s Suicide Forest extend to films? Last May, festival-goers at Cannes were united in jeering Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees, a botched tear-jerker set in Aokigahara, the dolorous woodland that laps at the flanks of Mount Fuji. Almost a year later, here is the horror-movie version, which features Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer shrieking ‘twixt the doom-laden pines, and is almost just as bad.
Dormer plays Sara, an identical twin whose sister Jess, an English teacher working in Tokyo, has gone missing during a school trip to Aokigahara. The site has been a suicide hotspot since ancient times, and Jess’s colleagues fear the worst. But Sara’s sisterly instincts tell her Jess is still alive, so she flies out to scour the forest for her, with help from a friendly alpha-bro travel writer called Aiden (Taylor Kinney), who thinks the hunt will add a fresh angle to his feature.
Set aside for the moment the fact a professional journalist supposedly thinks a story about a white woman in her 20s going missing abroad will bring foreign tourists stampeding into town, and The Forest’s premise isn't without merit.
Take the awkward entente between Sara and Aiden. He seems like a nice enough guy, but the balance of power in their relationship skews heavily male-wards, and given his primary goal isn’t actually finding Jess, Sara has to fight to retain control of the search. She also has to grapple with Japanese supernatural concepts like yurei – the souls of the departed trapped on Earth due to unfinished business, which teem through Aokigahara at night – and the film seems to be promising an intermingling of eastern and western horror traditions.
But this all amounts to nothing, and instead The Forest resorts to the usual barrel-scraping horror tactics so fast it makes your head spin. Unearned jump-scares abound – handily, Japan is full of toothless OAPs who randomly leap at young women during the night – as do the kind of obviously digitally augmented ghouls that dispel a creepy atmosphere on contact. Naturally, there’s also a long-repressed childhood trauma that keeps surfacing at inopportune moments, like a tickly cough at the theatre.
Dormer, who’s so tangibly slinky and poisonous on Game of Thrones, and was bulldoggishly memorable in a small but pivotal Hunger Games role, has almost nothing to lay her hands on here. Instead of embracing the setting’s visual possibilities, first-time feature director Jason Zada simply runs his leading lady through the Lost in Translation basics: we get the mandated shot of her gliding through Tokyo in a taxi, gazing blearily at walls of neon, and another in which she watches an automatic window blind rise up to reveal a winking cityscape.
The result is that after half an hour or so, you start praying for Bill Murray to amble into shot and whisk Dormer off to a karaoke parlour. For relaxing times, make it something else.