Horror Aspect: A+
Story Aspect: F
This horror flick is about a girl named Jess who was last seen wandering into Japan's Aokigohara Forest, a real life forest where people tend to go to commit suicide. Some people call it The Sea of Trees. Jess's twin sister Sara, played by Natalie Dormer, who is actually the protagonist, doesn't understand this and knows Jess couldn't have gone in, or wouldn't go in to end her life, so she decides to leave her safe home to go in search of her, a place you aren't supposed to stay into the night for, because it's been told people lose their minds, that people get cursed, that people start not wanting to live anymore.
Now, the reason I always give a little introduction before I give my basis on what the movie is about is for the lazy readers who decide to read my first sentence and then get the vibe. And really, in that case, my review couldn't be simpler. From the get go, I really wanted to find out what happened to Jess and simultaneously I was scared. Shivering. I don't have much experience with horror movies so maybe it was only natural, but I think this movie is breathtakingly scary. Even when I wasn't in a horror scene, my chin was up, and there were about three or four jump scares where the shock even went down to my feet. The movie also has a very good credit song and little opening chirp of Japanese girls singing what sounds like a cross between a ritual, a curse and a cry for help, or hell. And Natalie Dormer makes Sara feel likeable and vulnerable so for the most part, she's able to carry the scenes where there are no jump scares. Sara is accompanied by a man named Aiden played by Taylor Kinney (starred in Zero Dark Thirty, which i thought was bad but critics loved, and The Other Woman, which critics disliked but I enjoyed), and though he's not a very fleshed out character, he is at least good at sounding demanding when he needs to be.
And about an hour and fifteen minutes into this movie, I was certain I was going to recommend it with open arms for its amazing scares and one resolution to one of the many mysteries this movie has. But I'm so sorry to say that the story is an absolute mess and I can't believe all its flaws somehow slipped through the whole production and writing team. It's almost like by the end, the filmmakers decided to say, "We just don't care anymore, let's wrap this up." It's not just the fact that Aiden says during the first night out that "there are caterpillars in Australia more dangerous than anything out here,", a statement that makes sense to the geography but somehow still contradictory to all the other dangers he talked about before. That's a flaw I can usually forgive. No, the story goes to a total Boom! by the end, tricking us into thinking one question is solved but really it changes to a different idea, a different idea that makes no sense whatsoever. I'll post spoiler unanswered questions at the bottom of this review. *
So honestly, I don't think there's going to be any movie out this year that has a worse way of telling its story. But I think the opposite for horror aspects, because I was just as scared as I was when I watched The Scorch Trials, and that's become one of my all-time favourite films, and one of the all-time scariest. So how can I dislike a movie that accomplishes that? And yet, how can I recommend a movie with such a horrible story? I think you get the gist. Horror movie lovers will love this, as long as they don't mind an explosion of weirdness at the end. If they make a sequel to this movie, I'll go immediately, as long as Natalie Dormer promises to return. I don't think it will happen, and maybe director Jason Zada won't allow it, but I see opportunity. If it didn't end like it did and had about fifteen more minutes, I would've given this a B+ or A-. But alas...
* Spoiler Unanswered Questions: You get questions like, "How could there be electricity down there? Why did she leave her tent? Why did she wander off? Was it really those bars that caused the trickery, because though there's a hint, it's never said out loud. What was it Jess was searching for? What kind of basement was that? And the end tries to do a final jump scare. But it makes no sense. It's of a spirit attack, but it had been proven the spirits don't make contact, or can't be seen unless drugged.