0:00:28 The film begins with Sara Price (Natalie Dormer) waking up from a nightmare where she’s running through a forest. The beginning is so jarring, I’m not sure if I have a complete copy or if I’m the one having a nightmare.
0:00:36 The dream means she has to fly to Japan. I’d like the same dream about Thailand, if you please.
0:01:08 She rings her sister Jess on arrival, but no one picks up and Jess’s voice mail is full. This is one of the risks when dreams organise your holidays.
0:02:42 Through a series of flash backs, we’re informed Sarah Price’s twin, Jess, lives in Japan and went camping in the Aokigahara or ‘Suicide Forest’. This is a place where so many people come to end their lives (50-100 per year) that signs are erected at the entrance, extolling visitors to think of their families before taking that step. I don’t mean to be cutting, but that’s one place I wouldn’t want to hang around because, shoot, it sounds like a pill. 💊
[N.B. There are signs in Japanese at the entrance to the park, but, according to my research, the multi-lingual signs exist only in the film.]
0:02:50 Their outfit is the scariest thing in the film so far.
0:08:08 A dream sequence. The new scariest thing about this film is how dead it is.
0:09:16 Sara visits the school where Jess taught Japanese teens English. One girl goes into hysterics when seeing Sara as she looks exactly like Jess, because identical twins. It’s as though Jess came back from the dead, much like Nathalie hopes her career will after this film.
Japanese headmistress (Akiko Iwase as Head Teacher — she teaches WHAT!?): In old times, it was a place for ubasute. When there was not enough food, families would bring elderly women, the blinds or sick to the forest and leave them to die.
Sara: That’s awful! I don’t understand, why would the school take the class trip there?
Oh please, Sara, we’re talking about Japanese students and a suicide forest! The teens have a right to plan their future.
0:11:27 Nathalie Dormer acts with herself, as the evil twin Jess – who is a trouble maker and rebel because she dyes her hair black and has a nasal accent – and Sara, the good twin. Of course, those familiar with Game of Thrones have already seen Nathalie’s twins.
0:15:22 At an inn near the A-hole forest, the cheerful Japanese reception hostess just happens to have a dead Sara twin on a slab in the basement.
0:15:56 WTF!? There are three bodies kept in cold storage? They shouldn’t call this place an ‘inn’ but an ‘out’. Fortunately, the corpse still breathing under the sheet isn’t Jess.
[N.B. One myth about the Aokigahara forest is that there are ‘at least 100 suicides each year’. In fact, the average is less, although in exceptional years the count does exceed 100.]
0:18:34 Sara is told not to search the forest herself because of the Yūrei, think ‘ghost with a sick sense of humour’. They use your sadness to trick you into killing yourself. Or becoming an actor in this film.
0:19:18 A fetish of Japanese schoolgirls cross the road as Sara walks to her hotel. Either these young students are ghosts, or they’re going to be.
0:20:11 A creeper named Aiden (get it? because he’s ‘aiding’ her) chats up Sara in the hotel bar. She explains she’s looking for her lost sister.
Aiden: Do you know about the forest?
Aiden: Is that a possibility with your sister?
Sara: We’re identical twins. If she were dead, I would just know.
Aiden: What do you think she’s up to, then? If she’s out there?
Sara: I think she’s struggling with her demons.
Literally! Sara may have lost her sister, but not her sense of humour.
0:22:21 Aiden says he’ll take Sara into the forest with a guide for an article he’s writing, if he can use Sara’s story in his piece. It goes without saying that he also wants his piece in her story.
0:24:18 Sara tells Aiden that her parents died after being hit by a drunk driver as they pulled into their own drive, yet in the flashback there are what sounds like two shotgun blasts and the parents seem to be found in the basement. Sara says she’d kept her eyes closed and only 8-year-old Jess (wearing the same print dress as the eerie flashbacks) saw what, I assume to be, a husband/wife murder/suicide. It may be because of the twins’ clothes.
0:26:34 WTF!? Sara walks in a hotel hallway lit intermittently by a flickering light, where none of the Japanese paper doors has a room number on it. Suddenly, an old woman appears, literally, out of nowhere, accompanied by her equally stealthy granddaughter who has to peel the old bird off of Sara. It’s a cheap scare carried out by a ninja Gran, and after startling Sara, the old geezer makes more noise than a defective life support machine.
Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa as Aiden’s local guide): I still think you should not go.
Michi: Because you are sad. (See 18:34)
If she’s not now, she will be when she reads my review.
0:30:06 The moment Sara, accompanied by Aiden and the guide, steps of the path, the dirt begins to mentally growl at her.
0:33:46 While Michi talks to a lad who brought a tent into the forest because he’s on the fence about suicide, Sara tells Aiden that Jess had tried to commit suicide twice, both time with pills, probably because she found it romantic. As in “I love you to death.”
[N.B. I suspect Michi’s character is based on geologist Azusa Hayano, who lives near the Aokigahara and volunteers his time to patrol the forest. He not only looks for the bodies of victims, but scouts those susceptible of committing the act beforehand. This 2012 documentary shows a scene where he talks to a man in a tent who he worries might be in the forest to commit suicide — and the colour of the tent in the video? The same yellow as the tent in this film. There is also a scene describing the tape people use to either find their way back if they decide not to die, or to lead rangers to their corpses should they decide to take their own life. (see 34:45)]
Aiden: People use tape or rope like this if they think they may want to find their way back out.
Michi: Or they hope someone will follow the rope to remove their body from the forest one day. This one looks recent.
Maybe someone was at the end of their rope.
0:38:42 Through her twisted sister bond, Sara leads Aiden and Michi to Jess’s empty tent, the same yellow one we see in the flashbacks. Jess has had that tent longer than I’ve had some life partners, though slept with it less.
0:40:57 Michi insists they leave the forest before nightfall, but Sara refuses to leave the tent until she’s found her sister. After a long, tortured, inner struggle, Aiden decides to do the intelligent thing and leave with Michi, promising to return in the morning. No, just kidding, he thinks he might get sex so he drops his pack near Sara’s and tells Michi not to let the forest hit his arse while he walks out of it.
0:44:47 At the camp-fire, while the pair discuss their siblings, Aiden rests his hand on Sara’s arm. She immediately jumps up and says she’s going to sleep. She enters the tent and smiles at her sister’s copy of Flame and Shadow, by Sara Teasdale. Meanwhile, Aiden is in a sleeping bag by the fire, looking at the tent with such creepiness that the background music becomes sinister. Perhaps he’s jealous Sara knows how to read.
0:46:57 Sara leaves her tent to find this…
0:48:16 Sara had been warned dozens of times about the risks in the forest, especially at night, yet she opts to run blindly into the woods without waking Aiden — whom she had to step over to run amok in the woods. The stupider the movie, the happier I am when they get what’s coming.
0:48:48 Sara happens upon one of the schoolgirls who has a dirty face and is probably lost…on her way to the other side. It’s obvious to me, if not to Sara, that the student is a ghost. Let’s hope that between the twins Sara got the looks, because she didn’t get the brains.
No trust him.
The young girl relates a message from Jess to Sara. Jess wasn’t that good of an English teacher.
0:51:10 At dawn, Aiden and Sara decide to break camp and head back to civilization to get stitches on Sara’s cut palm. As Sara doesn’t know the way back, she has to trust Aiden. Her memory is shorter than a dwarf before pay day.
0:54:16 Sara chooses this moment to stop trusting Aiden. She discovers he doesn’t have a little brother, but made one up out of thin air. He wanted to get closer to Sara for his article and her articles…of clothing.
0:55:07 Trying to delete the recordings he’d made of her, Sara ‘accidentally’ lands in his pictures, like every other teenage girl ‘accidentally’ does on Saturday morning with her boyfriend’s mobile. But it pays off: there’s a picture of Jess in her tent.
0:56:14 After Aiden pushes her to the ground, Sara throws his phone and runs the opposite direction. She’s more lost than me taking a maths test.
0:58:58 WTF!? She finds a ball of twine, so decides to string that around a couple of trees, we know not why, all the while her sister’s voice in her head whispers she should turn around and face the ghosts. When she runs out of string she panics and runs through the forest until she falls down a hole. And here I’d thought Dormer had already hit bottom with this film.
0:59:08 After finding Jess’s tent abandoned, Michi assembles an official search party and tells them things only subtitles would understand.
1:02:08 WTF!? Rather than resting below the hole she fell into and waiting for someone to come and rescue her, she prefers to hobble deeper into the cave on her possibly broken ankle because it’s pitch black and an evil spirit is beckoning. This girl needs to be put out of her stupidity.
1:02:14 She encounters the schoolgirl I predicted was a ghost back at 48:48. She tells Sara that ‘Miss Jess want to see you’. I hope it’s about teaching proper English.
1:03:27 The school ghost shows her true face and Sara decides to run to the hole and yell for help. This should have been her Plan A from the time I thought of it.
1:05:14 Aiden finds Sara at the bottom of the pit, and when he leaves to fetch something to bring her to the surface, Sara finds a child’s View-Master. Clicking through the photos, she sees images of her childhood, the night her parents died (in what I predicted was a murder/suicide).
1:07:26 Because Sara still suspects him of being a creeper, Aiden gives her his knife for protection. It won’t take him long to get the point.
1:08:16 Sara decides she wants to wash off before they go to a ranger station to use a radio. Aiden needs to worse than she does, as he’s the dirtiest thing in this movie.
1:08:42 WTF!? Suddenly it’s night-time? That was one hell of a long bath. And she doesn’t look any cleaner.
1:11:54 At the abandoned ranger station, Sara writes notes to her sister on the other side of a locked door while Aiden tries to repair the wireless. Jess writes that Aiden will kill them and that Sara must get the key. I’d like her to give me the key to staying awake throughout this film.
1:14:22 While struggling over the key Aiden claims is in his boot (he said Jess had been in the cabin for five days–there were Aiden’s energy bar wrappers on the floor to imply he’d been there before), Sara accidentally stabs him with a blade she found while looking for the key. The fastest way to a man’s heart is with a knife.
1:16:01 The locked door in the guard station opens and it’s the basement door from her childhood. Herself as a little girl is waiting on the stairs to take her down, even though she seems pretty down to begin with.
1:16:14 The scene I described at 0:24:18 is revealed here. Big fault divorce.
1:16:38 In a steaming pile of WTF, Sara’s dad comes back to life and stops being chalk white. He crawls across the floor to Sara and grabs her wrist, forcing her to saw at his fingers with her kitchen knife. This is the kind of crazy that runs in the family.
1:16:54 We espy a glimpse of Jess at fireside, listening to the far off screams of her sister. If you hear the Call of the Wild, don’t answer.
1:18:06 Jess sets off on a frantic run for no other reason than to escape the rampant WTF.
1:19:26 While Sara is stopped by the school ghost, Jess reaches the search party. I still don’t understand why she was sitting by the fire waiting to do nothing. Apparently, not dying took up a lot of her time.
Rob (Eoin Macken, Sara’s partner): Have you seen Sara?
Jess: She’s not with you?
No, because you heard her scream your name and run towards you, which is why you ran away. Either Jess is lying or the film is ridiculous. #orboth
1:20:12 The school ghost shows Sara that when she thinks she was cutting her father’s fingers, she was, in fact, cutting her own wrist. But across, not down, so it’s just for show.
1:20:48 Because a couple of deep scratches on her wrist aren’t enough to kill her, arms in the ground pull her down into the dirt, much like I do with friends on the weekend.
Jess: She came for me. She came for me.
Rob: She knew you were still alive.
Yet, now that Jess is found everyone is leaving and we don’t even get an explanation of what Jess was doing in the forest other than waiting for trouble. At least Jess is an identical twin so Rob needn’t look too hard for a replacement wife.
1:21:34 Jess doesn’t sense her sister’s signal anymore, or maybe she needs more bars.
1:22:26 Michi waits for Sara’s ghost to try and scare us, but it scares him more than anyone.
- WTF!?’s: 8 thick ones
- When to Follow: When you don’t like horror films and would rather be confused than scared.
- Where’s This Found: A Japanese-style ghost story / horror film à la Apartment 1303. How ever did they trick Dormer into making this film? I’m convinced that originally, Sara and Jess were meant to be the same person, and that when Sara witnessed her parents’ murder/suicide she created Jess as a vessel for that memory. Unfortunately, someone decided this was far too impossible (How is Jess teaching in Japan at the exact moment Sara is living with Rob in the U.S.? How did Aiden have a picture of Jess on his phone? How was Jess communicating from the closet? How was Jess communicating through the girl ghost? Who was the moving corpse in the basement of the first inn?…for example), so they decided to keep the clues but scrap the story. This left us with so much WTF, and so little interest. Out of a possible 10, I have 5 F’s to give
- What To Feedback: Not all of the films I’ve reviewed on this site are let-downs!
Left Over WTF (Way Too Funny) Photos
Another movie where the poster is the best part of the film. One note about the original poster. As pointed out on the IMDb Trivia Page, the poster showing half of Sara/Natalie Dormer’s face, with the bottom half replaced by nooses is reminiscent of an infamous photograph from the Aokigahara forest. In the shot, half of a hanging victim’s head eroded away, and all that remains is the top half of the man’s head. To compare the poster and the real inspiration, click on the following link but be warned this NSFWTF photograph is graphic and disturbing and I recommend you not click. [I grabbed the screen cap from this video on Chad Daniel’s page.]
Prints suitable for reposting!
WTF!? did they say?
WTF!? do you meme?
What to Follow Up
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