(PG-13, Universal, 94 minutes): A fairly promising feature debut from director Jason Zada, but at the same time, not a good horror film. “The Forest” does, however, contain one clever series of images, akin to (but not nearly as frightening as) the woman crawling out of the well and through the TV screen in “The Ring.” The scene in question comes late in the picture, so we’ll just say it involves a key character re-living a childhood trauma with the supernatural help of an old-timey GAF View-Master. Frustratingly, the movie shortchanges this and other scare sequences, either by harried technique or imprecise pacing.
Natalie Dormer (“Game of Thrones,” “The Hunger Games”) is the star of what studio publicists used to call “a demanding dual role!” Identical twin Jess (Dormer), of reckless and self-destructive disposition, has disappeared in the Aokigahara Forest at the base of Japan’s Mount Fuji. Presumed a suicide, like so many others who travel to the so-called “sea of trees” with no intention of leaving alive, Jess goes missing for several days. Her twin, Sara (Dormer again), travels to the forest and ventures deep inside, where the malevolent spirits roam, with the help of a hunky travel writer (Taylor Kinney of “Chicago Fire”) and their cautious trail guide (Yukiyoshi Ozawa).
Zada establishes a mood of sullen grief and methodical dread. There’s not a lot of filmmaking energy in “The Forest,” and roughly 40 minutes of story surrounded by 45 more minutes of Dormer in nonverbal distress.
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Contains disturbing thematic content and images. Chicago Tribune
(R, Lionsgate, 86 minutes): A 12-year-old girl named Bird (Ella Ballentine) inadvertently snaps a photo of a cold-blooded hit man (Laurence Fishburne) in action. She flees for her life, taking refuge on the second floor of a half-empty house where distraught Carter (Thomas Jane), hurting over the death of his young son, is composing a farewell note to his estranged wife. Meanwhile, the killer, known as Sade, will not stop until he eradicates all witnesses. Unfortunately, in the hands of writer-director Adam Alecca, this overly talky, slackly executed game of cat-and-mouse comes off as cheesy rather than chilling.
Taunting each other with hackneyed trash talk like “This is the Wild West, son!” (it’s actually northern Canada), it’s a wonder poor Bird doesn’t go screaming back downstairs begging for mercy. At the end of the very long day, not even Fishburne’s dependable gravitas is able to pummel this stagy gab-fest into submission.
Contains strong violence and language throughout. Los Angeles Times
Also out April 12
- Flight 7500
- About Scout
- Heroes Reborn: Event Series
- Justice League vs. Teen Titans
- Welcome to Sweden: Season 2