Most locations are considered lucky if they have even just one cool-sounding nickname, but Aokigahara is doubly blessed. The Japanese woodland is alternately known as both Sea of Trees and, far more chillingly, the Suicide Forest. If ever there was a perfect place to set a scary movie, this is it. Fortunately, one is on the way.
“It’s a very real place and it’s absolutely fascinating and terrifying once you begin to research it,” says Jason Zada, director of The Forest. “I really was drawn to the idea of making it as menacing and scary as possible.”
Judging by the first trailer for the film, which is due January 8, 2016, he realized the idea fully. The Forest stars Game of Thrones fan favorite Natalie Dormer as a woman tracking down her twin sister, who has disappeared into Aokigahara. All manner of spooky things happen once she arrives, which are not limited to unseen entities whispering her name and what may or may not be powerful hallucinations of knotty roots pulling her into the ground. This film could potentially set the tree surgeon industry back 20 years based on how many people it scares away from forests.
“When David Goyer [writer of Batman vs Superman and many more films] pitched me the idea, I was instantly hooked,” Zada says.
The director came to wide attention with his award-winning interactive Facebook horror short, Take This Lollipop, back in 2011, but The Forest marks his first foray into feature filmmaking. The process of creating a movie of this scale from the ground up was not without its challenges.
“It was important to me the capture the authenticity of the location and Japan,” he says. “The ability to help create real characters that come to life over the course of 90-plus minutes was a fun transition from shorter form content that I’ve done in the past.”
Although Zada won’t be able to see how people feel about his movie until it comes out next year, the release of the first trailer through MTV was an opportunity for him to shine a brief flashlight into the forest of public sentiment about his work. With over 100,000 views in less than a day, it looks like there’s a lot of stirring going on in there.
“I really enjoyed watching the response to the trailer, as this is something I have been working on for about three years now,” Zada says. “I grew up watching MTV, so it was really fun to watch the trailer debut on air and online. Scaring people in a 60-second TV spot is always a thrill.”