Review Date: 6/27/21
Cast: Mayu Yamaguchi, Anna Yamada
Another attempt to capitalize on the popular Aokigahara Forest, also known as the "sea of trees" and the "suicide forest" to Westerners. The movie opens with an old man rescuing two young girls that stumble out of the forest and onto the road, which immediately cuts to an annoying YouTuber who ventures into the forest as a stunt and mysteriously vanishes. From there, we're introduced to Mei (Mayu Yamaguchi) and Hibiki (Anna Yamada), who coincidentally happen to be teenage sisters. Strange things start happening when an evil box is discovered in a crawl space under their house. Or maybe it's a friend's house? Like many aspects of the film, it's hard to tell. Anyway, Hibiki, who is already withdrawn and anti-social, starts to freak out when the box shows up, and then everyone around her starts to die in unusual ways. Her grip on reality is tenuous and she suffers from numerous delusions and hallucinations about the forest. Or does she? Perhaps she's just more in tune with spirits and the macabre. She's eventually institutionalized for arson when she attempts to destroy the box, which leaves Mei with the task of trying to appease the forest spirits by returning the box to the forest. But as Japanese horror films go, that rarely works, and Mei finds herself in mortal danger as her sanity starts to crack.
Unfortunately, it's an uninteresting and mostly ineffective J-Horror outing that feels oddly reminiscent of "The Forest" (2016). The pacing is slow, the lighting is poor, and the camera work feels sloppy and amateurish. The acting is decent, but none of the characters are particularly likable or relatable. Mayu Yamaguchi is cute and is the only one you can remotely identify with. That said, I'm sure there's a lot of cultural context that I was missing, and the lack of subtitles left me clueless most of the time. But even so, the scary moments weren't particularly scary, and it felt like a missed opportunity to do some really weird and creepy stuff. There are a handful of decent looking effects here and there, but it wasn't enough to hold my interest and my finger was constantly hovering over the fast-forward button.