Sara (Dormer) goes to Japan in search of her missing twin sister Jess (also Dormer), who has vanished in the Aokigahara suicide forest. With a new reporter friend called Aidan (Kinney) and a guide (Ozawa) Sara ventures into the woods.
This is the second film in a year to centre on an American who ventures into the Aokigahara forest at the foot of Mount Fuji, a notorious suicide spot. As with Gus Van Sant’s Sea Of Trees, which screened at Cannes last year and then vanished, there’s something a little distasteful about using a real place of tragedy as the backdrop for some Westerner to have a personal revelation. And it’s even worse to use it as the setting for a rather average set of horror scares, which is unfortunately what we get here.
The sheer number of jump scares wears any tension down to nothing.
In the lead-and-supporting roles, Dormer is rather good as a twin who has her own demons to face while she searches for her missing sister. On arrival in Japan, she meets a handsome but slightly shady journalist (Kinney) who invites her to accompany his guided tour of the forest with ranger Michi (Ozawa). That sets up a nice but brief dilemma: is the forest itself really malevolent, or is something seriously amiss with Sara’s travelling companions? Kinney at least seems like bad news, but there are a few too many mysterious and monstrous visions in the woods for this to work as a straightforward thriller.
Instead, things devolve fairly quickly into another ghost story, albeit one set in glorious arboreal surroundings. There are jump scares aplenty and horrific apparitions all around, but the sheer number of them wears any tension down to nothing.
The setting is glorious and Dormer is on form, but the scares can’t match either.