Theme: Book by an author with my initials
This book provided me with the ability to casually drop this gem in conversation:
Random person: That forest in Japan where people go to kill themselves.
Me: It’s called Aokigahara *smug*
If you’ve ever spent a night in the forest, far enough away from civilization that there’s no people sounds or lights, you know it’s a pretty heavy feeling. If you happen to be in a forest that functions as a mecca for suicides and repository for their ghosts, I’d imagine that might exacerbate things quite a bit. If you also happen to be lost and stupidly unprepared to spend even a night in said forest, well then, you deserve what’s coming to you.
The novel follows all the conventions of your typical slasher film set-up:
– Dumb , unlikeable twenty-something Americans? Check.
– Reputedly haunted locale? Check.
– Repeated warnings from locals not to go? Check.
– Ignore signs not to leave trail and immediately become impossibly lost? Check.
– Lack of proper footwear? Check.
– Split up? THAT MAKES SENSE!
Let me tell you something that makes Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (and the first movie adaptation) one of the most effective horror novels ever written: she trusted in location and characters. Haunting has like, no plot. Simply following the inner monologue of possibly mentally disturbed Eleanor through a possibly haunted house is enough.
“But I’m an American!” you say. “I need convoluted plots and mayhem and blood and gore! Now bring me my baconator!”
The characters in Suicide Forest would certainly kill for a baconator after all is said and done.
Point being, a place like Suicide Forest with its reputation and aura of permanent twilight carries the distance. With a little psychological suspense thrown in, and characters who act like people, and not caricatures, it should be a slam dunk.
Unfortunately, while the author does a fair job of creating a solidly spooky atmosphere within the forest, it is quickly wasted on insipid characters and repeated SMH moments. The technique used to manufacture thrills here isn’t psychological or supernatural. It’s stupid-natural and it siphons any remaining suspense and credulity out of the story.
The release of this book was oddly timed to precede a movie about Aokigahara called “The Forest,” which is not based on the book in any way, and follows a template akin to “The Grudge 2” and other J-horror remakes involving Americans traveling to Japan and ignoring curses.
I won’t go into detail on the movie, but it’s pretty bad. In trying to fictionalize a real-life horror, the author and filmmaker alike think that the proper treatment is to add more horror until there’s just a pile of horror tropes crammed into a room a la Cabin in the Woods, but way less fun.
Fun fact, both the movie and the book feature cabins in the woods.
A couple of different suggestions if the premise of this book interests you.
For “idiots lost in the woods and it’s really scary” try:
And for “idiots lost in the jungle and they’re so stupid it’s entertaining” try:
And for god’s sakes, pack the Ten Essentials!