Movie Night with Lauren: The Forest and Blair Witch

It’s 20 days into October and binging all these horror films is starting to wear me down. I had to marathon all the Halloween episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine last night to help me stop being so gloomy.

The Double Feature: Forests are creepy. They’re quiet and isolating in a rather spooky way. And those are the ones that don’t have murderous, paranormal forces in them.

The Forest

The Forest (2016)

Basic Synopsis: When one twin has a dream that her sister is in trouble, she jumps on a plane to search Japan’s infamous Suicide Forest to find her.

Brief Thoughts: I love my sister and all, but I wouldn’t be caught dead in those woods. The little I know about that forest is enough for me to stay far far away. So, sorry Heather, you’re on your own!

Fortunately for Jess, her sister is a much braver person than I am. And far luckier too. She just so happened to find the one other American in that part of Mount Fuji’s shadow, willing to trek deep into those haunted trees. At least I think she’s lucky she found him? I’m not honestly sure. The movie is confusing that way.

When it comes to the Suicide Forest, Sara is given two rules: Stay on the path, and don’t trust what you see. Of course she ignores both of these things, spurring on a frustrating story of paranoia and confusion. Unlike Sara, I threw doubt at anything and everything the film was choosing to show us, leaving me with a ton of questions about what was really happening in those trees. Who is real, what can be trusted, what was really happening; questions like these were constantly swirling through my mind. Which makes for an interesting movie watching experience, until it becomes apparent that most questions won’t be answered. Even as the movie ended I wasn’t sure exactly what happened in that forest, which left me completely unsatisfied with the film.

Is There a Dog in this Horror Film: Nope! There is a suspicious snail though.

Quick Question: Why did Sara lie to Aiden about how her parents died? I initially assumed it was because she didn’t want him to know there is a history of suicide in her family so he would believe her and the feeling she had that her sister was still alive. But then not too long after she shares that her sister has attempted suicide a couple times before. So what’s the point of hiding the truth about her parents’ deaths?

Another Quick Question: How the heck did Sara’s phone have a charge throughout the whole movie!? I was beyond surprised we never had a scene where her phone died and she was then plummeted into darkness.

Gimme Answers! (Spoilers): One of the biggest questions left unanswered by the movie is whether or not Aiden knew Jess. At first he says he doesn’t, but then Sara finds a pic of her on his phone. I’m assuming she wasn’t just imagining this because Aiden reacted like he’d been caught in a lie, but Sara runs off before we get to hear what he has to say for himself. And then later when Sara demands the key to the basement Aiden plays that scene really strangely. Maybe he was just playing along with Sara’s delusions to not upset her further, but who knows what’s going on. So again, I ask, did he know Jess? Did he go into the forest with her? I could’ve sworn Sara was told Jess was seen going into the forest alone, and Aiden was only going into the forest this time cuz he has a guide, so this seems unlikely. But if he didn’t, how did he get the picture of Jess? I NEED ANSWERS!

Let’s Talk About That Ending (Spoilers): I know I’m supposed to be happy that Jess survived the forest, but i’m so frustrated Sara died without seeing her. I mean, her astral projection saved her? Maybe? As I’ve said numerous times, who knows what happened in this movie. What I do know is one of the reasons people go to the Suicide Forest to end their life is so their death is not a burden to their family. So way to go, Jess. You fail.

Why this ending bothers me as much as it does is it goes against what we have been told. At one point the guide tells Sara that she shouldn’t go into the forest because she is sad, and the forest and spirits will feed on this. But she never seems sad to me because she has no doubt that she’ll find her sister. So rather than sad, I see her as full of hope. So why does the forest affect her as much as it does? Whereas after numerous days, the sister who went in debating suicide only to get lost in the forest without her anti anxiety/depression meds somehow manages to survive. That just doesn’t add up.

And Another Thing (Spoilers): This doesn’t really change anything, but it is bothering me: was the dream in the beginning supposed to just appear like the shot of Jess running through the forest in the end (went back and I’m pretty sure it’s actually the same footage), or did Sara see the future? The twin connection in the moment is one thing, but premonitions? Hm…

Final Thoughts: Surprisingly this movie wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be going in. Especially considering its Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb scores. It’s still not a good movie, but it wasn’t awful. I just wish it had given us some answers.

Blair Witch

Blair Witch (2016)

Basic Synopsis: Much like The Forest, Blair Witch tells the story of a sibling who thinks it’s a good idea to go into haunted woods to find a missing sister. This time the protagonist is James, the younger brother of the girl who was featured heavily in the found footage of The Blair Witch Project.

Random Note: His sister’s name is Heather. My sister’s name is Heather. Again I must reiterate that my sister will be SOL if she stupidly ventures into any notorious, haunted forests.

Brief Thoughts: It’s been awhile since I’ve seen The Blair Witch Project, but what I do remember was the oppression I felt by the heavy darkness of those woods, and the lack of control felt by being a slave to the POV of a handycam. The danger always felt like it was just out of view, and no level of protection squinting provides could keep me from the fear of what was out there. I can’t say the same about Blair Witch, at least not to that extreme, but what I can say about it is that had me feeling something else just as affecting as fear, and that’s despair.

Quick Aside: About an hour into the movie the beginning stages of an anxiety attack started kicking in.

Brief Thoughts (Cont’d): I’m with everyone who was thinking “oh no… here we go again” when it comes to Blair Witch’s plot: a group of college students go into the woods, weird stuff starts happening, they get lost, things take a turn. It was to the point that I was reciting the definition of insanity, both for the characters since they’d seen what happened to the people in Heather’s found footage, as well as to myself for watching this sequel. The same things are happening, so maybe don’t expect different results.

That said, I never felt the story choices were lazy because of the return of the same plot, and I think a large part of that is because of the characters. For whatever reason I found myself super attached to this group and cared about their wellbeing. Think Kristin Wiig’s character watching Tom Hanks lose Wilson to the current in Bridesmaids. I wasn’t emoting to the extent she was, but I did feel bad for the characters. Instead of getting angry at them for running off into the woods alone (well, except maybe when one of the two characters who actually believes in the Blair Witch was all “I went to see if I could find what was making those noises.” Do you not know what type of film you’re in!? You’ve heard the stories; you should know better!), I felt concern for them. No one should die scared and alone, and the inevitability of that happening in this weighed on me as heavily as the darkness did in the first film.

Is There a Dog in This Horror Film: Nope. I don’t think a dog would be stupid enough to go into these woods.

Oh Dear God (Spoilers): It was never a question of if anything would happen to these people, but when it would start happening. Even so, when Talia’s body folds in half after Ashley destroys what we realize too late to be something along the lines of a voodoo doll, I was genuinely shocked. That was the biggest jaw-dropping moment I’ve seen in a horror film in a long time.

Did You Notice? (Spoilers): When Lisa is running up the stairs in the house we catch a reflection in a mirror, and it looks exactly like the shot we saw earlier in the movie when James was watching the footage found from Heather’s camera. Why the filmmakers chose to do this, I don’t know, and I’m choosing not to put too much thought into it past the idea that those who go into the forest are doomed to the same fate.

Let’s Talk About That Ending (Spoilers): For once I actually don’t have a lot to say about the ending of a horror film. My only note is that I feel like it may have been better to see less of the Blair Witch than we did in those final minutes. Mostly because her design, though completely understandable given the stories told about the character, made me snicker a little. But this is only a minor complaint, really.

Final Thoughts: I liked it. That said, the original will always be a classic so if I had to chose to rewatch only one of the films in this series it would be The Blair Witch Project.

The Double Feature Verdict: I can understand people having a lot of problems with The Forest. I know I sure do. Surprisingly I seem to be more forgiving of it than most, even though the more I think about it the more frustrated I get. Because of that I would probably be more hesitant to recommend that film. Whereas I’ll definitely recommend Blair Witch. No doubt about it.

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