Directed by: Jason Zada
The Aokigahara forest in Japan is quite infamous, and has long been surrounded by an air of mystery. The name itself means “sea of trees”, but it is colloquially known as the “Suicide Forest”. Upon entering, the density of the forest cuts off almost all outside sound, creating a sense of isolation. There are signs strategically placed at the entrance, urging visitors to seek help rather than take their own lives. It is estimated that an average of 30 successful suicides take place there annually, and more attempted. It is a place of deep sadness and cultural significance to many.
Of course, Hollywood had to try and find a way to make it about white Americans.
There is a natural fascination with foreign locations and curiosities, and Aokigahara certainly does have a unique history. It’s understandable that there’s a draw to this location, and a desire to tell stories about it. But using this location as an “exotic” backdrop for a rather mundane story does not do it justice. This is a location that could be deeply frightening and unsettling given the respect and attention it deserves in a horror film, but this film ultimately did not come close.
The Forest begins with Sara, a woman who is constantly bailing out her perpetually troubled twin sister, Jess, getting a sense that something is amiss with said sister. When she discovers that Jess is missing and was last seen going into Aokigahara, Sara immediately flies to Japan on a mission to save her sister’s life. However, once she arrives and begins her search, it becomes apparent that it may not just be Jess’s life that is in danger.
Steampunk is far and away one of my favorite escapist genres to explore. The playful Victorian aesthetics aside, there is something quite freeing in the retro-futuristic landscape of the worlds it encompasses. It allows for us to play in a setting where things were perhaps a bit more stifling for anyone that wasn’t a white, upper class man, and oftentimes show women who are going against the grain a bit. More recently, a subgenre of steampunk has emerged, that takes the ideas of steampunk, and focuses it less on scienes and gadgets and more on the Gothic horror literature of the Victorian era. This genre is aptly called dreadpunk.
Ghosts By Gaslight is a collection of steampunk horror fiction, falling squarely into the perimeters of dreadpunk. Naturally, I was very excited to see so many things I loved come together into one collection of short stories, as Gothic horror has such a unique charm for me. But did Ghosts By Gaslight manage to meet my hopeful expectations? Unfortunately, the answer is a very strong no.
When it comes to book-to-movie adaptations, I have a tendency to be a little snobby in favor of the book. It is the original source material, after all, and sometimes due to the restrictions of the movie format for storytelling, some of the potency of the story is diluted in the process. On top of that, the Ring series has been one of my favorite horror franchises ever since the American remake first pulled me into that world. Needless to say, when I picked up Koji Suzuki’s novel, the one that inspired it all, I expected to be blown away.
I did not get what I expected. Read the rest of this entry →