Into the woods

With Christmas releases and Oscar contenders still filling the multiplexes as a calendar year ends, January has long been traditionally considered the dumping ground for new releases, comprised mostly of last year’s leftovers or genre schlock designed for fast pay-off – and frequently dire. The Forest, with its generic title and equally generic storyline, isn’t quite dire. It’s not very good, to be sure, and it’s not very scary – the kiss of death for horror films – but first-time feature director Jason Zada knows his way around a camera, and the film provides “Game of Thrones” and Hunger Games co-star Natalie Dormer an opportunity to take center stage.

It’s actually “double trouble” for Dormer, playing twin siblings Sara (blonde) and Jess (brunette). Jess has gone missing near Tokyo, and Sara jets over to Japan to search for her. Jess was last seen in the vicinity of the Aokigahara Forest, located at the base of Mount Fuji, a popular (so to speak) destination for people considering committing suicide. It’s also, according to this film, haunted. The Forest was filmed partly in Japan but mostly in Serbia, and one is hardpressed to detect the change in location.

The plucky and attractive Dormer plays her role(s) with conviction, as do Taylor Kinney as a hunky journalist and Yukiyoshi Ozawa, as a helpful (but fearful) park ranger who accompany her into the woods, while Mattias Troelstrup provides attractive and atmospheric cinematography. Their contributions offer some encouragement under generally discouraging circumstances. !