‘The Forest’ hangs with you like a bad piece of sushi

Natalie Dormer in “The Forest.”
Natalie Dormer in “The Forest.”

The 5th Wave **1/2

Call it “formula fatigue,” but the continuation of YA (young adult, teen) genre dystopian, apocalyptic sci-fi soap operas is warring thin, and The 5th Wave, while compelling in its story, is just one more on the YA bandwagon. What arguably started with The Harry Potter franchise, led inevitably to Twilight, The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson and the Divergent series, along with Ender’s Game, The Maze, and literally dozens more one-offs that didn’t do well enough to warrant sequels. All were based on the YA genre of movies based on books that were hits with the teen and tween crowd. Some are better than others. The Harry Potter films, for example, are almost universally loved by fans and critics alike. Fans, at least, fully embraced Twilight and The Hunger Games, even if the critics didn’t. The problem is in the formula. It works well once or twice, or even three times, but after 20 films with the same teen angst, same beautiful young people in peril, same plot lines, sub plots, and a litany of additional so-called twists and turns that reduce these films often to little more than High School Musical remakes without all the dancing. See The 5th Wave for a few spectacular CGI scenes early in the film, a couple of clever twists that you may see coming a mile away, and for Liev Schreiber, who always delivers, even within an overdone formula.

The Forest ***

The Forest, based on the actual Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, is known as a supernatural focal point, and one infamously associated with suicides (60 in 2010 alone), all which gives this new film its creepy premise. The fictitious story of a young woman’s twin gone missing there is a good start for a horror/suspense film set in an international locale. A slow, thoughtful lead up and encouraging story foundation soon gives way to a glorified Blair Witch Project with lots of running through the woods, spooky images, very little gore, and some gotcha moments. A few clever twists toward the end will keep you engaged, and the final 20 minutes are plenty spooky. Any fault lay with the leads: Natalie Dormer (The Tudors, Game of Thrones), and Taylor Kinney (Zero Dark Thirty, Chicago TV series). The pair are never quite believable, either they’re too callus, or not scared enough, or just plain dumb. Regardless, it’s the kind of film that hangs with you like a bad piece of sushi, and may forever change the way you feel about walking in the woods. The Forest is a decent low-budget ($10 million) effort, capitalizing on a truly creepy place that actually exists.

What do those stars mean?