Focus Features has acquired North American rights to The Forest, the supernatural thriller from David Linde’s Lava Bear Films and Phantom Four that is being being directed by newcomer Jason Zada. The script, rewritten by Sarah Cornwell and based on an original idea by David S. Goyer, is set in the Aokigahara Forest, a real-life place in Japan where people go to end their lives. Against this backdrop, a young American woman comes in search of her twin sister, who has mysteriously disappeared. Despite everyone’s warnings not to “stray from the path,” Sara dares to enter the forest to discover the truth about her sister’s fate, only to be confronted by the angry and tormented souls of the dead who now prey on anyone who crosses their paths. Focus has set a January 8, 2016 release date. Good Universe is partnering with Lava Bear to handle international sales at Cannes. Goyer and Phantom Four’s Nellie Reed are producing, with Lava Bear president Tory Metzger overseeing.
If this setting sounds familiar it is: the Gus Van Sant-Matthew McConaughey pic Sea Of Trees that has been making the rounds at Cannes is also set in the forest. In that pic’s case, a suicidal man (McConaughey) visits the dense forest and sets out to help save a Japanese man (Ken Watanabe) and changes his own life in the process. The genre angle of Forest jibes with Focus’ direction under new CEO Peter Schlessel.
Zada has until now directed commercials and music videos, including the interactive short Take This Lollipop. Said Goyer: “Jason is the real deal. He impressed us immediately with his thoughtful and emotional approach to the material.”