There is an infamous place in Japan where people regularly go to commit suicide. Aokigahara is a forest that lies at the base of Mount Fuji, less than 100 miles west of Tokyo. Known as the Suicide Forest or Sea of Trees, it is reportedly haunted by the ghosts of people that have committed suicide there over the centuries. Driven by grief, these lost spirits are known as yurei. Aokigahara is the haunted setting for The Forest, director Jason Zada’s supernatural thriller starring Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones).

Natalie Dormer plays Sara Price, an American with a troubled twin sister living in Japan. Her identical twin sister Jess is a teacher that has vanished in Aokigahara. Believing her sister is in trouble but still alive, Sara flies by herself to Tokyo. Locals there tell Sara that people go to Aokigahara looking to commit suicide, but Sara refuses to believe her sister is dead. Warned to stay away from the dense woods, she luckily meets Aiden (Taylor Kinney). A travel writer with knowledge of the area, Aiden introduces her to a local guide that may aid her search for Jess.

Firmly believing that Jess is still alive and ignoring repeated warnings, Sara’s dark journey into the eerie forest becomes a battle for survival against angry spirits and other surprising obstacles. Told by residents that not everything in Aokigahara is what it seems, will Sara lose her mind before finding Jess?

Sticking a clueless American in an infamous place for suicides beautifully sets up the loneliness and sadness that permeates its story.

Make no mistake, The Forest is a horror thriller made for adults. There are no teenage protagonists and its unsettling themes are aimed at adults looking for a few scares. That may lose it some fans since the film avoids laying its frights on thick and hard. Natalie Dormer really surprises as Sara. I wasn’t sure she could carry a movie on her own but she handles leading lady duties with a smooth, gripping performance. In fact, it is one of the best performances by an actress in a horror movie this past year. Dormer elevates the material she’s been given in The Forest with a convincing presence.

The Forest’s dark, foreboding atmosphere works very well due to the Japanese setting of Aokigahara. Sticking a clueless American in an infamous place for suicides beautifully sets up the loneliness and sadness that permeates its story. There is a nice emotional resonance due to its authenticity that is usually lacking in scary ghost films.

A few more frights could have possibly been thrown into the narrative. If you are looking for thrill-a-minute pacing, The Forest is probably not the movie for you. The suspense is tautly built up until a somewhat tricky finale.

The Forest is one of those horror movies with a mildly unique idea and rich atmosphere, aided greatly by its trappings taken from Japanese folklore. The yurei are waiting for you.

The Forest Blu-ray screen shot 11


The lush, deep woods of Aokigahara are shown in fairly nice definition and clarity. The main feature runs 93 minutes on a BD-50, encoded in a transparent AVC video encode. Taken from the movie’s digital intermediate, Universal provides a fine transfer framed at 1.85:1.

The new horror film from Universal tends towards darker colors with satisfactory detail. Shot with the Arri Alexa XT Plus camera, its video holds up fairly well in dim light. This isn’t the sharpest new production. The atmospheric digital cinematography has a decidedly old-school feel as characters get lost in the forest. There are no significant artifacts advertising this as a digital production. In fact, I was fooled into believing this had been shot on actual film stock.

The Forest takes place in dense woods with lush green foliage, often in little light. Apparently the cinematographer preferred using natural lighting, which does weaken the contrast. Shadow delineation and fine detail are adequate, though a shade behind the best video quality most Hollywood productions have to offer these days. This isn’t material that will knock anyone socks off but represents solid, unobtrusive Blu-ray quality circa 2016.


Horror films from Hollywood rely more and more on sound design to frighten audiences and The Forest is no exception. The robust 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is filled with subtle directional cues and a variety of surround activity.

Dialogue is smoothly delivered in the balanced audio mix, mastered with fine dynamic range and perfect clarity. A few creepy moments won’t work nearly as well if you don’t have a proper surround set-up, as the ghosts haunt the listener from behind. While this soundtrack won’t overpower you with action-filled moments, it impresses nonetheless.

Optional English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles display in a white font.


Horror collectors should know a slipcover is available. The Blu-ray also comes with a digital code, which includes both an iTunes and UltraViolet copy.

Audio Commentary by Director Jason Zada – A dry, somewhat tedious solo commentary. He seems mostly engaged and doesn’t drift much from the movie itself, though his insights and anecdotes aren’t especially funny or illuminating. This is a perfunctory commentary probably better off as background listening.

Exploring the Forest (08:05 in HD) – Director Jason Zada and other cast and crew members discuss the film in this featurette. Zada goes over his attraction to this material after hearing about the Suicide Forest. A brief look at the film’s make-up shows us how the ghosts were created. Natalie Dormer does show up for a quick chat about her character.

Galleries (All in HD) – A series of five different galleries featuring stills that can be advanced through manually. Galleries include Behind-the-Scenes Photos (0:51), Set Illustrations (1:21), Visual Effects/Make-Up Concept Art (2:21), Model Cave Photos (0:41)

Storyboards (All in HD) – These depict four scenes: Visitors Center (5:11), 80s Flashback (2:01), Cabin Sequence (20:12), and Revised Ending (10:31).

Universal Trailers (06:18 in HD) – These trailers all play in succession before the main menu: London Has Fallen, Race, Krampus, Mr. Robot: Season One, The Boy and Kubo.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Natalie Dormer heads this tight supernatural thriller set in Japan.

User Review
3 (2 votes)

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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