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Film / The Forest (2016)

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Based on the tragic history of the Aokigahara forest at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, Jason Zada's 2016 horror film The Forest stars Natalie Dormer as identical twins Sara and Jess Price, the former of whom goes searching for the latter when she is notified by authorities that her sister has gone missing and is believed to have entered the "suicide forest." Music by Bear McCreary.


  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Or is Sara's case, angsty desperate to find her lost for days twin. Jess plays this straight in the ending, though.
  • Antagonist Title: The titular forest is essentially the film's Big Bad.
  • Arc Symbol: Basements are used to symbolize Sara's repressed thoughts, memories, and emotions. It's also where she dies.
  • Arc Words: "[Don't leave/Stay on] the path".
  • Artistic License – Geography: In several of the scenes where Sara and the others are in the forest, stock forest noises can be heard. In real life, the density of the forest blocks out most sounds, making it eerily quiet.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: The marketing claims that the film is Based on a True Story, even though there hasn't even been a story of a white woman dying in Aokigahara under mysterious circumstances. What the filmmakers actually meant was that they were inspired by a Wikipedia article to make the movie (yes really).
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  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Sara, who's only been away from hygiene and beauty products for a little over 36 hours at the end of the film, is certainly an arguable example; Jess, who's been lost in the forest for 5 days, is a textbook one.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sara and Aiden are dead and Michi's fate at the end is uncertain but at least Jess is safe.
  • Body Horror: Some of the ghosts, as well as the maggots in Jess's arm.
  • Corpse Land: The forest is packed top-to-bottom with ghosts that look like zombies. That said, the forest's really pretty when they're not around, in stark contrast to the wall-to-wall dead bodies and rotten soil of most depictions of the trope.
  • Creepy Children Singing: The end credits theme features a chorus of Japanese children singing. It's extremely unsettling.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: When Sara suspects that Aiden is a psycho behind Jess' disappearance, even though Aiden is ultimately innocent, his rather sketchy and aggressive behavior when confronted over it, doesn't do him any favors. Nor does it help that he admits that he was trying to get close to her earlier.
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  • Dogged Nice Guy: Aside from genuinely wanting of help Sara, Aiden soons admits that his Intrepid Reporter shtick was largely trying to flirt with her. It's one of the reasons she starts loosing her trust in him.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: Combined with Stay on the Path.
  • Dying Alone: This is Sara's worse-case scenario regarding Jess in case she fails to find her. Ironically, this is what ended up happening to Sara herself.
  • Foreign Queasine: after Sara arrives in Japan, she goes to a sushi restaurant for dinner and gets both parts of a jumbo shrimp cut in half. It's still moving.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Sara tells a story about her parents dying in a car crash and her sister going outside to look, but it's rather suspicious that the setting of the story features a staircase leading to what is clearly another room. This foreshadows that her parents actually died in a Murder-Suicide.
    • A lot of shots focus on Sara's wrists.
  • Freak Out: Sara goes looking for her identical twin Jess in Japan, and stops by the school where Jess taught. The students, quite predictably, lose their shit at the sight of seeing their "dead teacher" coming back.
  • Genius Loci: Characters often speak of the forest itself as being malevolent, not just the spirits who wander it. Indeed, the sad look one of the ghosts gives Sara before her own spirit is pulled underground may indicate the ghosts are not attacking of their own volition.
  • Good All Along: Turns out Aiden really had no involvement on Jess' disappearance, even though he tend to act sketchy.
  • Harmful to Minors: The twins were there when their father kills their mother in a Murder-Suicide.
  • The Hero Dies: Sara is unconsciously Driven to Suicide by the stress of everything that has happened until that point, even including her father's Murder-Suicide of her and Jess' mother, taking a toll on her.
  • Hot Teacher: Jess, as played by Natalie Dormer.
  • Identical Twin ID Tag: Sara is blonde while Jess is raven haired. When they were kids, Sara's hair is much darker but it still has lighter shade compared to Jess'.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Aiden sees Sara looking for her sister in an infamous suicide forest as an opportunity to make an article, even joining her on her search. He later admits that he was partially just doing this to flirt with Sara, but he was still serious about helping her.
  • Jump Scare: A couple of choice ones early on set the tone, in case you thought you'd wandered into a nature documentary.
  • Lead You Can Relate To: One of the recurring criticisms of the movie is that it takes a real location and sensitive topic in Japan, and finds a way to make it about white Americans.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The ending, among other things. Did Sara really get taken by the ghosts? Or did she fall down into an ice cave and die?
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The twins' surname is price. Sara goes to Aokigahara in Japan to save her missing sister, which she does at the cost of her own life.
    • Aiden means Son God in Celt. In Irish it means little fire. He's the one in-charge of creating the camp fire.
    • Michi means guide in Japanese.
  • My Greatest Failure:
    • Sara and Aiden trade stories about their respective low points. It turns out neither of them were being completely honest.
    • Sara's death is this for Michi, unfortunately for him, this voids whatever protection he had from the forest.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Oh boy...
    • Sara travels half the world to look for her missing sister only to suffer Sanity Slippage and eventually die.
    • Aiden went out of his way to help Sara find her missing sister only for her to suffer Sanity Slippage and accuse him of nasty things, culminating with her killing him.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Aiden is supposed to be Australian, but his actor uses his natural accent.
  • Oh, Crap!: Michi, when he realises what's about to happen at the end.
  • One-Gender School: Jesse taught in an all-girls school. Even the faculty are all female.
  • Only the Pure of Heart: Seems to be the reason Michi can go into the forest as often as he does; he doesn't really have anything for the forest to exploit. He certainly does by the end, though.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Of the "angry at the living" type. And how.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: The twins were raised by their grandmother after their parents' deaths. Which of them exactly is their grandmother's offspring is never stated.
  • The Place: The titular forest refers to Aokigahara, where majority of the film takes place in.
  • Promotion to Parent: The twins' grandmother became their legal guardian after their parents' deaths.
  • Raised by Grandparents: The twins were raised by their grandmother after their parents' deaths.
  • Rescue Arc: The film's main premise; The Hero is searching for her missing twin sister in the titular forest.
  • Sanity Slippage: The spirits in the forest have been picking off Sara's mind throughout the movie, particularly with visions of Jess and their past, and push Sara into thinking that Aiden is a kidnapper.
  • Sheep in Sheep's Clothing: Towards the latter half of the film, it appears that Aiden is not who he appears to be and Sara sees a teen-aged girl claiming to be a student of Jess who tells her to not trust him, and Sara becomes suspicions of him and his intentions from there, even thinking that he's Jess' Stalker with a Crush or a even a Serial Rapist. Aside from a subtle sketchy behaviour, Aiden genuinely did want to help Sara find her sister.
  • Stay on the Path: Combined with Don't Go in the Woods. Also the film's Arc Words.
  • Stepford Smiler: The twins are still haunted by their parents' deaths.
  • Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: Birds? Beasts? Souls of the damned? You pick.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: We see almost all of what Sara sees, some of which plainly isn't real.
  • Token Trio: The American Sara, the Australian Aiden, and the Japanese Michi.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Sara deciding to stay in the forest after finding Jess's tent. Yes, really. And dismissing the urban legends of Yurei haunting the forest as well.
    • After going into an ice cave, Sara again encounters Hoshiko who tells her she can lead her to Jess. She follows her, even when Hoshiko flashes a creepy grin at her.
    • Despite the facts Sara can trust Aiden, she still flat out believes the Forest's tricks and in return, kills Aiden.
  • Tragic Hero:
    • Sara came to Japan to look for her missing sister only to find herself having to confront past memories she wish she never have, then undergoing Sanity Slippage thanks to the paranoia of the mystical forest, and then ultimately dying for her troubles.
    • Aiden genuinely did want to help Sara find her missing sister. But she succumbs to paranoia and ultimately kills him.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailer features Sara in a Shower Scene which never happens in the actual film.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The ads showed the ending of the film where Sara is pulled under the forest floor and killed.
  • Twin Telepathy: Sara's justification for traveling to Japan to search for her sister is that if Jess were dead, there would be "a silence." Used to explain giving up on finding Sara without even trying at the end, too.
  • Unreliable Voiceover: Happens during Sara's My Greatest Failure story.
  • White Shirt of Death: Aiden is wearing a white shirt when Sara kills him.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Sara is warned by Michi to never believe anything the titular forest shows or tells her because it will not end well.