The Forest (Movie Review)

Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones) stars in the horror movie The Forest as Sara Price, a young woman who travels to Japan in a bid to find her twin sister Jess, a school teacher believed to have gotten lost during a routine school trip.

Aokigahara Forest is a real place in Japan, lying at the base of Mount Fuji. A place that suicidal people tend to visit when they no longer wish to continue living, and is therefore known as the Suicide Forest. Legend also has it that if you enter the forest with sadness in your heart, supernatural forces can drive that person to despair.

Despite protests from the locals, Sara is convinced that her sister is still alive due to their special spiritual connection and wishes to scour the forest in search of Jess. When she meets Aidan (Taylor Kinney – Chicago Fire), a writer who intends to journey into the forest the following day, he volunteers to accompany her to ensure that she doesn’t get lost.

When they discover Jess’s tent deep inside the forest just as night is closing in, Sara refuses to heed the advice of their guide and leave to continue their search in the morning. Instead she stays and as darkness falls, she endures strange sounds and terrifying visions.

 

When I first clapped eyes on the trailer for The Forest, I was excited to see this movie. With Natalie Dormer and Taylor Kinney, two actors that I admire from Game of Thrones and Chicago Fire respectively, coupled with an intriguing storyline surrounding the suicide forest, I thought ‘this looks really creepy with plenty of ghost filled jump scares’.

Oh how wrong I was. The film was definitely not the tense and scary ride that I had expected, instead being a mediocre trot around a fairly ordinary looking forest, during which time very little of interest really happens, except for an overuse of jump scares.

However, kudos to Natalie and Taylor for making The Forest a little more watchable, but by the time I reached the end and the inevitable twist, I had mostly lost all interest. The conclusion is a bit confusing and also a bit implausible. There are holes in both plotlines, regardless of whichever one you decide to believe.

The main niggles I have with the movie is that her injured ankle healed itself fairly quickly, and let’s not forget the smartphone batteries that last for well over 24 hours, despite being used as Dictaphones and torches?

This was a great idea, just very poorly executed.

At 3 out of 5 stars The Forest is worth a watch if you enjoy plenty of scares, just don’t expect too much from it. Check it out on Amazon.co.uk here.

 

See also:

World’s Scariest Places: Book 1 – Suicide Forest (Book Review)

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Break Point – James Patterson with Lee Stone (Book Review)

I’d like to apologise for the lack of book reviews lately as I have been a bit distracted from my usual reading. One of my favourite rock bands, Backyard Babies, released a new album on March 1st (Sliver and Gold) and as a result I’ve rediscovered my love for this band’s music, listening to all of their albums pretty much for the last month straight, so there’s been very little reading going on. Anyone interested can check out the Backyard Babies music videos on their Official Youtube account here. I’ve been a fan since I was 16 year’s old, when a friend loaned me his copy of their debut album, Diesel and Power, back in 2000.

Anyway, since I don’t have a new review for you I’m reposting an old one that I did for an earlier incarnation of my blog; Break Point is a deviation from my normal repertoire of science fiction, fantasy and horror, instead focusing on my Mother’s favourite writer, James Patterson. Speaking of Mother’s, it is Mother’s Day tomorrow (Sunday) here in the UK, so I guess this works out quite well really.

I arrived into the midst of a family situation a couple of years ago, which left me waiting around and twiddling my thumbs, and having not had the foresight to bring along a book to read in case of emergencies, I was a little restless. As a result I ended up diving into one of my Mother’s piles of James Patterson crime thrillers that were sitting close at hand, and coming out with one of his ‘Bookshots’ or short novellas under the advice that “that one about the tennis players is quite good.” With nothing more interesting to pass my time I decided to give Break Point a chance to amuse and enthral.

 

Kirsten Keller is a tennis pro on the verge of winning the French Open, when an unexpected noise from the crowd terrifies her so completely that she flees the court in fear for her life. It soon transpires that Kirsten has been receiving mysterious death threats, and after the embarrassing circumstances in France she decides to employ the services of ex-Metropolitan Police Officer turned Investigator, Chris Foster, to protect her at Wimbledon, and provide some much needed piece of mind allowing her to focus on her career. Can Chris find a way to capture the person responsible for Kirsten’s torment and save her life?

 

Despite my misgivings about reading crime thrillers, which aren’t necessarily my usual cup of tea, I must confess that I rather enjoyed this brisk, straightforward story which at only 119 pages can be easily read within an hour or so.

Not being very familiar with either James Patterson or Lee Stone’s other offerings it’s a little difficult to truly do a review of Break Point justice, however the book is long enough to provide enough depth to the story for it to feel properly complete, which is a feat that even some full length novels often fail to achieve.

At 3 out of 5 stars it is perfect for those who enjoy crime thrillers that can keep you guessing until very near the end, and/or you’re a little too short on time to read a full novel. Those looking for a short read can pick up a copy of Break Point from Amazon.co.uk here.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman (Book Review)

Bird Box was added to my TBR list so long ago that I’ve almost completely forgotten the reason why, however I think it was due to its description as ‘the scariest horror novel of all time’ or something along those lines. Not entirely certain though, but when I discovered that Netflix had turned the book into a film, I finally decided to increase the priority and get the book read sooner rather than later.

 

It is a post-apocalyptic tale of survival, in which a single mother attempts to raise her two young children, while protecting them from an unknown danger that lurks outdoors. Having deduced that the time is ripe, Malorie gathers the children together and they flee their home to try and find safety elsewhere. They make their escape by boat, while blindfolded to protect themselves from looking at whatever force or creature lurks outside, causing people to commit suicide.

To me, the premise sounded a little bonkers, and I wasn’t entirely convinced that it would work. Driving a car while attempting not to look at what’s happening around you? Rowing a boat blindfolded along a rough river in the dark? Walking anywhere outside with your eyes closed/covered and somehow not tripping over or falling down steps/stairs and hurting yourself all the time?

Unsurprisingly, my initial suspicion was right. First off, the fact that the writer couldn’t be bothered to give the children proper names, instead simply referring to them as ‘Boy’ or ‘Girl’ for the majority of the novel, really irked my nerves. Second, and most importantly, there was no explanation for what it was that actually happened. What did people see outside that caused them to commit suicide? Was it a creature? If so, where did it come from? How many creatures were there? The list of unanswered questions goes on and on, without resolution.

I comprehend the meaning behind the story less now that I’ve read the book, than I did before I started. Therefore, I rate this book at just 2 out of 5 stars. There is very, very little horror in this novel, or suspense, or action, or indeed very much of anything of real substance. It actually becomes a bit dull and repetitive as the book plods along with this ridiculous concept. It also boasts the longest boat ride since Gendry in the TV version of Game of Thrones. That said however, it did enough to keep me reading until the end, but I only wish that there had been a more satisfying conclusion.

 

 

Since I finished the book, I decided to persevere and watch the film as well, which stars Sandra Bullock as Malorie. I thought that maybe seeing the story visually might be better than reading about it, however I’m still not convinced. There were a few differences between the book and the film, some obviously understandable, but others that simply just confused me. If you want to watch it for yourself though, I’ll let you make up your own mind about it.

 

If you want to, you can check out Josh Malerman’s Bird Box novel on Amazon.co.uk here.

FantasticLand – Mike Bockoven (Book Review)

I was initially drawn to the book cover for Mike Bockoven’s FantasticLand, with its eerie image of an empty fairground Ferris Wheel, before Amazon’s synopsis intrigued me further; The book’s description sets the scene of a disaster stricken amusement park in Florida, where a large number of college-age employees must fight for survival, after being cut off from both modern technology and the rest of society. Left to their own devices for a considerable length of time, these employees resort to drastic measures in a bid to survive.

While searching for something different to read over the holidays, I picked up this intriguing novel, promising a thrilling story full of mystery and horror akin to Lord of the Flies and Battle Royale, and found to my surprise that initially once I started reading, I didn’t want to stop.

While reading the prologue I found it difficult to determine whether the content was fiction or true-to-life, however another quick check on Amazon’s synopsis confirmed that it was indeed fiction, as initially suspected. However, with that out of the way I soon realised to my dismay that the story is told through the eyes of a reporter, by way of separate interviews conducted with people who lived through the disaster. This immediately put me off from continuing to read, but since I hate to leave a book unfinished, and the basic premise had piqued my curiosity, I persevered.

The interview style of narration, in which survivors each explain their part in the events, tended to veer off on tangents, interrupting the flow of the story. Since it jumps around from person to person and park area to park area, we don’t really get to know any of the characters in-depth, resulting in the reader feeling detached and un-invested in their survival. As a result we don’t really care who survives and who doesn’t.

I would probably rate FantasticLand at a fairly average 3 out of 5 stars. The book hits terrifyingly close to reality with its haunting depiction of stranded teens, starved of social media in a technological age fueled by a constant need to connect with their peers. The severe disaster which cuts these people off from regular society is also far too realistic a scenario, once you take into account global warming, climate change or the magnetic pole shift. However, it lacks somewhat in its first-person interview style execution. I really wanted to love FantasticLand, but the constant violent scene, after violent scene, after violent scene got really old, really quickly and I became disassociated with the story.

Those interested can check out FantasticLand by Mike Bockoven on Amazon.co.uk here.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Book Review)

Tagline:

You Don’t Know Her. But She Knows You.

 

Rachel, a troubled alcoholic regularly takes the same train to and from her work in London. As the train slowly trundles along the tracks past her old home, she remembers her old life, back when she used to be content and happily married to the man of her dreams.

Now however, even after two years of separation Rachel still struggles to move forward from her unexpected divorce. As a means of escape she likes to imagine the perfect, happy lives of the couple who live a few houses down from the home she used to own with her husband.

Every day the train slows down as it approaches her old street, and she catches brief glimpses of the happy couple from the two-storey, Victorian semi-detached house.  But one day Rachel makes a shocking discovery and finds herself a part of the ‘perfect life’, which she has been secretly watching from the train.

 

Favourite Quote:

“It’s not that unusual, death by train. Two to three hundred a year, they say, so at least one every couple of days. I’m not sure how many of those are accidental.” – Rachel’s inner thoughts. (p21)

 

 

Having recently, in a bid to be healthier, decided to give up alcohol, I was rather surprised to find that the content of Paula Hawkins novel The Girl on the Train was so full to bursting of those really embarrassing ‘Oh my God I got so drunk, I can’t remember what I did last night’ type moments, coupled with an almost constant state of perpetual drunkenness that it has quite convinced me to turn my recent sobriety into a permanent situation. I am aware, of course, that this is not really the main concept or raison d’etre of the novel, however it is definitely the aspect that will forever remain engraved in my memory.

The Girl on the Train is an uncharacteristic deviation from my preferred genres. Maybe that is why I dislike this rather sappy and somewhat romantic, psychological thriller, I’ve never been a fan of the romance genre.

The book began well however, keeping the reader intrigued by the mystery, giving out its information in small doses, piece by small piece, never letting the questions grow stale before providing adequate context and resolution. Unfortunately, somewhere around the moment that the real plot becomes clear, the story takes a rather repetitive turn, dragging on and on endlessly repeating the same patterns, until I just couldn’t wait for the end to come.

At 2 out of 5 stars it may be suitable for those who enjoy sappy romance and crime thrillers, if so you can purchase a copy of The Girl on the Train from Amazon here, but personally it’s not really my cup of tea.

When Tomorrow Calls: Book 2 – Why You Were Taken (Book Review)

After enjoying The Sigma Surrogate, JT Lawrence’s prequel novella to the When Tomorrow Calls series, I decided to check out the next book which continues the story.

The Sigma Surrogate was featured in The Uprising Boxset, a collection of 12 full length novels by various writers, all with the theme of dystopian futures and you can check out my review of that book here.

While The Sigma Surrogate focused mainly on Keke, Why You Were Taken is concerned with Keke’s bestfriend Kirsten. Kirsten and her partner James want to have a child, but in 2021 Johannesburg there is an infertility crisis and Kirsten is having trouble conceiving. Following on from the previous book, Kirsten is keen to discover the reasons for her infertility, as well as the truth behind the death of her parents. While researching her family history she uncovers a shocking government conspiracy, and gets more than she bargains for when the truth is finally revealed.

 

I was extremely disappointed in this novel for a number of reasons:

  1. The excessive use of swear words, especially since the vast majority of occurrences seemed unnecessary.
  2. The difficult to understand cyber chat sequences. The abbreviated chat language made some of these portions of the text confusing and really hard to follow. However, once I adjusted to the shorthand language being used this eventually made more sense.
  3. The constant need to pause the narrative to explain the colours of objects. This is due to Kirsten’s synaesthesia, a neurological condition that results in her seeing the world in varying shades of colours. This became very repetitive and annoying, and it didn’t add much to the overall story.

 

I initially had high hopes that Why You Were Taken would be an engrossing technothriller that would continue on in the same suspenseful, fast-paced manner as its predecessor. However, I didn’t click with any of these characters and came close to giving up reading on a number of occasions. I didn’t care much for the story and with only 2 out of 5 stars, I now can’t see myself reading any more from JT Lawrence.

However, if you would like to check out Why You Were Taken and judge it for yourself, then you can follow this link to Amazon.co.uk.

 

See also:

When Tomorrow Calls: Book 1 – The Sigma Surrogate

Bonfire – Krysten Ritter (Book Review)

I was drawn to Bonfire out of sheer curiosity, as it was written by actress turned writer, Krysten Ritter who is probably better known as Jessica Jones from the Netflix and Marvel series of the same name, or her appearances in AMC’s Breaking Bad. Bonfire is Ritter’s debut novel, and is a psychological suspense, mystery thriller.

 

High School student, Abby Williams is mercilessly bullied by her ex-best friend, Kaycee Mitchell and her posse of popular pals. However, the four girls soon become sick with an unknown illness, and shortly after graduation Kaycee skips town. On turning 18-years-old Abby also leaves the small town of Barrens in her rearview mirror, vowing never to return.

Ten years later, Abby returns to Barrens as an environmental lawyer, to investigate complaints made against the organisation, Optimal Plastics. Optimal practically runs the small town of Barrens, making it difficult for Abby and her colleagues to collect any unbiased opinions and truthful information about the company’s actions.

Concerned about contaminated water in the local reservoir, and with a head full of unexplained questions from her past, Abby must tread carefully or risk unearthing secrets that are best left buried.

 

I’m not usually a fan of legal style thrillers and worried a little that I’d made a mistake in choosing to read Bonfire, but found the environmental side interesting, as they tested the local water for pollutants. However, the book was a little repetitive with Abby’s continual flashbacks to her earlier life in Barrens. It was always the same specific memories: her dog, Kaycee being sick in the bathroom, or her father’s treatment of her, which gradually got a bit monotonous.

I almost got bored before I was even a quarter of the way through, but curiosity over the fate of Optimal Plastics, and Kaycee Mitchell kept me reading. Overall, Bonfire is an ok read at 3 out of 5 stars. It did enough to keep me interested, but the story’s nothing unique or impressive. If you enjoy psychological thrillers and fancy giving it a go, you can purchase a copy of Bonfire from Amazon here.