The Forest isn't just the first horror film released in 2016, it's the first new film to hit theaters period (unless you count the wide expansion of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's The Revenant). On the downside, early January is typically seen as a dumping ground for films the studios aren't confident in; on the upside, it won't have much competition for horror audiences until the creepy-doll flick The Boy goes wide on January 22.
For his part, The Forest producer David S. Goyer sees the film's release date as an “opportunity” to capitalize on a hungry genre audience that hasn't seen a major horror film hit theaters since Michael Dougherty's sleeper hit Krampus dropped in early December. As the Natalie Dormer-starring supernatural flick unveils in theaters, here are five highlights from my conversation with Goyer about the film, as well as his thoughts on the cancellation of his NBC series Constantine after one season.
1. Goyer came up with the idea for The Forest himself after reading an article online about Japan's Aokigahara Forest, which is known as a popular suicide destination.
“I had not heard of the place before…once I found out that a place like that existed, I couldn't believe that no one had ever made a movie about it before, particularly a J-horror film.”
2. He has always had trouble making movies based on original ideas.
“[Horror films are] either sequels or they're remakes. But that's true for most of the genres in Hollywood these days. Everything is reboots, or retreads, or sequels. I think the conventional wisdom is that an original idea is harder to cut through the clutter in the marketspace…it is true, throughout my career. It's a lot easier to get a Batman film made than it is to get a film made about a forest.”
3. He compares the forest in the film to one very famous horror movie location.
“I thought that once [Natalie Dormer's character] Sarah entered the forest, and once she was separated, that she would start to hallucinate. At least if you go with the lore of the Aokigahara, that's what happens. It tends to attract people who are weak. It's sort of like the wildebeest that has a limp that's preyed on by the lion. It's the sand trap that draws in people that are weak…it's like the Overlook Hotel [from The Shining] in that regard.”
4. He wasn't squeamish about tackling the subject of suicide in the film.
“Look, it's not something that you approach in a cavalier manner. That having been said, you know, if you're dealing with a horror film…what kind of themes is a film like that going to traffic in? Death, murder, suicide, I mean that's…or else it wouldn't be a horror film. The whole point about horror or psychological thrillers is that they shine a light on something that makes you feel uncomfortable, that deals with our psychological fears. Let's just say in my personal life I've had some connection to that, and part of horror is catharsis. Yes, we wanted to approach it with sensitivity, I think we did, but it's a natural fit for the genre.”
5. He holds Constantine apart from the raft of superhero shows that are currently on the air. He also thinks it may have been better served on a cable network.
“Oh, even though it was a comic book show, it was obviously a horror show as opposed to a superhero show. And I think at the end of the day, hindsight is 20/20, it might have been a better fit for a cable network, probably. They tend to lend themselves to edgier programming. Having said that, there happen to be some big fans of Constantine at NBC, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. I'm still proud of it, and I still think [Constantine star] Matt [Ryan] — he will always be the definitive Constantine to me, in my eyes.”
The Forest is in theaters now.