Every now and then I encounter a book that’s not only a great read, but also encourages me to spend a few hours looking into the story behind the book. That was the case for The Suicide Forest, a horror comic by El Torres and Gabriel Hernandez that draws from the real-world history of forest Aokigahara.
The forest is located at the base of Mt. Fuji, and lies just outside Tokyo. It gets its name from the fact that it’s a popular destination for people who want to end their own lives — so much so that Japanese officials feel the need to post signs throughout the forest urging people to rethink their decision to kill themselves. Anywhere from 50-100 people (and occasionally more) commit suicide in Aokigahara each year, prompting an annual “body hunt” by local volunteers who trek through the woods looking for that year’s victims.
The Suicide Forest comic takes all of these facts, along with local legends that say the spirits of people who die in Aokigahara are cursed, and offers a truly terrifying story about a vengeful ghost who terrorizes her former lover.
Here’s an excerpt from my column:
Given the success of horror franchises like “The Ring” and “The Grudge,” which were based on Japanese legends and were later imported and remade here in the U.S., it’s actually a bit surprising that the legend of Aokigahara Forest hasn’t been tapped yet. The national landmark’s history is steeped in both morbid facts and eerie phenomena, which is something Torres masterfully mines for The Suicide Forest.
While many of the Japanese horror franchises that were brought to the U.S. in recent years had their settings and other elements changed for American audiences, a movie based on The Suicide Forest would obviously need to stay in Japan. Fortunately, the source material already offers a great entrance point that softens the culture shock. The primary narrative follows an American living abroad who has a difficult time adjusting to Japanese society, and we see many of the terrifying events that occur throughout The Suicide Forest through his perspective.
You can read the rest of the column at IFC.com.
If you want to learn more about Aokigahara forest, there’s actually a lot of information out there — though some of it is significantly more morbid than the rest.
While I was looking up more information about Aokigahara, I came across this two-part video tour of the forest, which does a great job of showing why it’s such a fascinating — and frightening — place. Be warned, though: the tour guide encounters some of the grim realities of the forest late in the second video.
As I mentioned in my column for IFC, I’m pretty amazed that Hollywood hasn’t jumped on The Suicide Forest yet, as it seems like the sort of story that could scare a lot of tickets out of movie audiences. Heck, I’m creeped-out just reading about it online.