-An uninspiring horror film that gets a few scares at the end, and another monotonous look at teen dystopian fiction and triangular love plots.
It’s hard to routinely criticize horror films because it’s just too expected. Every year, studios churn out a dozen or so low-budget, high-reward horror flicks that rely on cheap jump scares, unknown actors, and mediocre production aspirations to peddle them to the small mass of people that will consume them whole-heartedly. Examples of this are films like Ouija or The Darkness or Sinister 2. What I can say about The Forest, the first-time directing effort from production agent Jason Zada starring Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer, is that it’s executed in a manner that makes us beg for a more sophisticated statement about the concept. It deals with a forest, Aokigahara, in Japan where many people go to commit suicide. Natalie Dormer’s twin sister goes into the forest, and with the stakes clearly high in the forest, Dormer goes after her, hoping to catch her before something drastic happens. When she gets to Japan, she finds out from a local journalist and guide (Taylor Kinney) that it’s not just the forest’s reputation as a suicide destination, but also that there may be evil spirits there that coerce people into committing suicide.
This is a well-made film, produced by David S. Goyer, music done by Bear McCreary, and the acting here is fine. It captures some interesting aspects of the Japanese landscape and culture (although slightly offensive at some points, honestly), and Natalie Dormer does the scream queen role with more depth than we’d usually expect. The problem, however, lies in how slow the beginning is. The film’s pace drags, and it doesn’t really even get spooky until the film’s run time is almost up in the third act. A thrown in subplot about the twins’ parents’ death does not help the cause, as sometimes the overall plot of the movie hinges on the fact that one twin saw their death, the other didn’t, which is traumatic, but not enough to go into the suicide forest. Little twists with Kinney’s character don’t really work, and outside of the landscape, this film is just a plodding mess that looks nice at certain parts. Overall, a snooze, but better than the bottom of the barrel horror offerings.
The Forest (2016)
Director: Jason Zada (X)
Starring: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Eoin Macken, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, and Stephanie Vogt
RT Score: 10%
The 5th Wave is not the kind of film that I’m prepared to hate on the basis that its a teen film set in a dystopian universe, as I’m a monstrous fan of both Harry Potter and Twilight. Although these are slightly different, at least the influence is there, and The 5th Wave takes the female star queue from Hunger Games, and like Divergent manages to dig itself a hole even deeper than that of the overrated Hunger Games.
There really is not a redeemable quality to The 5th Wave, where Chloe Grace Moretz’s world is changed forever after an alien invasion occurs on Earth. The attacks to wipe out humanity come in waves, the first a wipeout of all electronics, the second a monstrous tidal wave to eliminate the coast cities, the third a chemically engineered bird flu virus, and the fourth a way to infiltrate the human form themselves. All twists and turns are extremely predictable, and not once does this movie become even remotely exciting.
I like Chloe Moretz, and I may be in the minority. I liked her old work in films like Let Me In and Kick-Ass, but I also even enjoyed a few of her later performances, like in Clouds of Sils Maria or being the best part of the extremely messy Dark Places adaptation. She just has nothing to do in this film, and outside of swooning over this dude she meets in the forest at one point, played by Alex Roe, her performance is too subdued to recommend. Her stakes are simple, the military took her brother (Zackary Arthur) in order to recruit him for the war against the aliens, led by Liev Shreiber, and she wants to retrieve him from the strong-hold. Her journey leads her to the aforementioned roe, but little “nugget” is being cared for by the surprisingly-still-alive Ben Parish (Nick Robinson), who just happened to be Chloe Grace Moretz’s high school crush. Sense a love triangle in future installments? I do. Ron Livingston, Maggie Siff, Maria Bello, and Maika Monroe also appear here. (Poor Maika Monroe, she’s awful enough to completely undo the good will from It Follows).
There’s a love-triangle, there’s shameless film-making that exposes the abs and muscles of Alex Roe even worse than Taylor Lautner in New Moon, and none of the twists and turns found in the plot make any sense, or are even remotely unpredictable. The biggest reveal of the film comes from a story-line that seems like a visual gag gone too far. Plus, the film just like, ends, about 30 minutes in, and doesn’t try to pick up again until the last twenty minutes. You don’t need to know repeat viewings to catch the subtext of “what it means to be a human,” and all of that bullshit. I’m trying not to rant, so I’ll just fail it… This movie sucks.
The 5th Wave (2016)
Director: J. Blakeson (The Disappearance of Alice Creed)
Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Alex Roe, Nick Robinson, Liev Schreiber, and Maika Monroe
with: Zackary Arthur, Ron Livingston, Maggie Siff, Maria Bello, and Tony Revolori
RT Score: 17%