The Forest: A Mind Trip of a Horror Movie

The Forest

The Subtext Behind The Forest

As a dire-hard horror fan, regardless if it’s big budget or made with a hand cam for a few hundred bucks, I’ll watch it if the story line is interesting enough. So of course, I rented The Forest via Redbox.

Being that it’s mostly shot in Japan, around the Aokigahara Forest near Mount Fuji, it definitely has a foreign indie feel. And of course if it’s an Asian horror movie, you know it’ll likely involve ghosts and spirits. The Forest is a great American-Asian horror fusion introducing American Sara Price (Natalie Dormer) who receives a phone call from the Japanese police that her twin sister has gone missing in The Forest. Apparently, the local villagers fear The Forest and warn naïve Sara that her sister Jess is likely dead. They claim that anyone who enters the haunted forest is doomed.

Of course, the whole premise behind horror plots is the characters, at which you want to scream, “Don’t do it!” It’s like that hilarious Geico commercial, the one mocking poor decision-making in horror movies. But that’s why we precisely love them.

The Forest is a proto-typical example of this, as it weaves the whole creepy, deadly, haunted woods with a desperate woman who, yes, is going to enter despite warnings of pending death. The Forest is said to attack, not with monsters, a crazy man with chainsaw, or a burned man in a black and red sweater with knives like hands haunting pubescent teens and killing them in their sleep. The Forest attacks your mind. The Forest takes vulnerable humans and turns their own weaknesses against them. You know the saying, “You are your own worst enemy,” well The Forest exposes this brilliantly. So, I wanted to explore not so much the plot beat by beat, but the powerful subtext that can actually parallel mental illness and what sufferers go through.

You see, Sara is warned that entering the woods can make one see things and believe things that aren’t real. Any unresolved issues come to the surface when you enter The Forest. It plays tricks on you and, soon, you’re unable to distinguish between what’s real and not. The Forest represents the subconscious and entering deep inside to explore the mysteries of what memories are stored there. When we experience mental breakdowns, when we suffer from depression, or a mood disorder- it’s our minds that make us believe that what we’re feeling is real. The darkness convinces and manipulates Sara into thinking toxic thoughts that drive her to commit murder and, ultimately, suicide.

In Sara’s case she has to confront her father and dysfunctional family, but at the expense of her own life. She remains in the woods, her tormented spirit to wallow there for eternity while her twin sister, whom she was desperately searching for, finally escapes. More so, Sara frees her twin from her own mental torment and assumes it.

When entering the woods Sara loses sight of her main goal by becoming toxically engulfed in her own mental warfare. On a symbolic level, her death in the woods is more of a metaphorical death. Her very soul remains in The Forest, a place that keeps minds and souls imprisoned, tortured in a web of unresolved pain.

The Forest in not an Academy Award winner and, yes, it got low ratings on IMDB and only received one star on Rotten Tomato. But the subtext in this movie was very strong. If you are one that enjoys watching a film and really looking deeper, looking at the subtext of the film then you’ll enjoy The Forest. It’s well done and has an indie-Asian horror film feel that you can enjoy, that’s if that’s you’re thing.

About Sonyo Estavillo

I am a creative professional with extensive project experience from concept to development (scripted and non-scripted). My talents are diverse and include: producing, directing, production management, videography, social media/viral marketing, research, non-linear editing, story development, and content writing. *Masters in Television, Radio, & Film @ Newhouse, Syracuse University *Bachelors in Film Production @ CSULB

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *