In the upcoming thriller The Forest, we follow a young woman by the name of Sara (Natalie Dormer) as she heads into the Suicide Mountains of the Aokigahara Forest in Japan to find her twin sister who mysteriously disappeared there. Dormer co-stars in The Forest with Taylor Kinney and the film was helmed by up-and-coming director Jason Zada.

Daily Dead recently had the opportunity to speak with one of The Forest’s producers, David S. Goyer, who has worked on countless genre-related projects over the years including Dark City, the Blade series, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, as well as both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. During our chat, Goyer discussed the inspirations behind the story and the feel of The Forest, his confidence in first-time feature filmmaker Zada, and more.

Look for The Forest in theaters nationwide on January 8th, 2016 courtesy of Gramercy Pictures.

Thanks for chatting today, David. I'm a huge fan of your work and I think it's really interesting to me that you're involved with this project. It showcases another side of the genre and it just feels like nothing I've seen going on in horror lately. I really dug that.

David S. Goyer: Thanks. We were trying to do something that harkened back to the 1970s horror films like Don't Look Now, stuff like that. I'm glad you felt it was different and different from some of the other micro-budget films that have been made recently. That was the intention.

Absolutely. You mentioned Repulsion last night at the screening too, and I definitely got that vibe from The Forest. I loved the fact that as you dig deeper into the story, it's so hard to determine just what's real and what isn't. Ultimately, we know what happens to Sara, but we still don't know in terms of just how much was really in her head leading up to it and how much of that was reality.

David S. Goyer: The intention was to make something ambiguous, to leave the audience in that tension point of not being entirely sure whether or not Aiden was a good guy, not being entirely sure how much of it was in her head or not in her head, and how destabilized she was. Also, we wanted to show that Sara's a bit of an unreliable narrator too; that was always the get-go from the beginning, so I'm glad that came across.

One of the things that I liked about those films that were made in the ’70s is that they didn't have an ending where everything was wrapped up in a neat little bow. They were challenging and they were haunting and that's what we were aspiring to make and I don't think people have been making those kinds of films for quite a while now.

I love that it seems like we're starting to get back to that a little bit, where there's a thoughtfulness that goes into storytelling where you don't have to simply lead people by the hand and take them to point A, point B, and point C anymore. Almost like higher-ups are beginning to trust audiences again.

David S. Goyer: Okay, so part of my secret plan in producing, what I decided to do was I wanted to be more entrepreneurial and I've been targeting what I'm calling elevated genre films. The intention is to develop the scripts completely independently of any studio and to package them with your directors and actors, and then go to a studio and say you want to release the film, you want to make the film, but we're not interested in you developing it. We're not interested in going into development hell.

We're not interested because one of the things that's happened with the mainstream studios is there's been this proliferation of what they call the green-light committees. It used to be that there was one or two people who would choose the films and now there's 20 people who chime in. What tends to happen when you have that many voices is things get dumbed down or things become more generic because you're trying to please many masters.

The Forest was the first one of these projects that was developed outside the system and then, when we did bring it to Focus/Gramercy, it was already somewhat fully-formed. They did have some notes but it was much further along in the process. They just embraced what we were doing, which was great.

I had known Jason's work a little bit because of his Take This Lollipop video that became this huge sensation online a few years ago. I know this was his first time taking the helm of a feature, so I was curious what you guys saw in him that made him the perfect guy to do this story?

David S. Goyer: First and foremost, it was Take This Lollipop; it really made an impression on me. He also shares an appreciation for films like Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby, Don't Look Now and even The Shining, so we connected that way too. He's very contemplative and he deliberately wanted to make a film like that; where he wanted the score to be lush and wanted the material to be challenging. David [Linde], Tory [Metzger], and myself and Jason, we all felt like we were making the same film.

The Forest is a really ambitious movie, especially for a first-time feature director and I think it’s really cool that you guys gave him the reins for this because he did a really nice job.

David S. Goyer: Look, it is an ambitious film and we were determined to shoot some of it in Japan, despite that this was still a relatively modest budget by studio standards. We ended up filming for about five days and Jason was a first-timer in terms of a feature, but our producers have all had a lot of experience and so we surrounded him with a lot of very experienced people. I pulled in favors from everywhere. Bear McCreary did the score, who I worked with before. The sound design team were people that had worked with David [Linde] a lot before. We just made sure to surround him with people that were experienced so that they could help him and support him.

And that's also one of the things that I've been wanting to do; as a producer, I want to take some of these emerging voices—these writers and directors—and lend my experience to help them. Sometimes in terms of crafting a story, or maybe in some cases I can lean on my relationships that I've had and help develop these newer voices. That's really exciting to me. In some ways, sometimes that's more exciting than working with seasoned filmmakers.

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.