It’s not everyday that a horror movie gets a big theatrical release. The Forest, directed by Jason Zada, is the first horror of 2016 to get a nationwide theatrical rollout. I was fortunate enough to have an interview with the producer of the film, David Goyer. Here’s what Goyer has to say about the director, cast, and the Aokigahara Forest itself.

Well, I’ve always been a horror and supernatural fan. I haven’t done as many at this point, but it’s something I am very interested in, I am very subject matter driven. As it happens, I was researching Man of Steel, and I somehow I came across a link about the suicide forest – the Aokigahara –  and I read about it and was surprised that I didn’t know about it. It seemed like a natural setting to do a supernatural thriller. I wrote up a concept for it, and David Linde and I decided this would be something we would do together. We thought that this would be the perfect kind of project. We wanted to do an elevated horror film – Something that was character based, and we got what we wanted. And I’ve always liked stories about a foreigner or rather an American in a foreign land so it just seemed like a natural fit.

Yeah, when you make a film for 100 million dollars or 200 million dollars, studios tend to be more at risk, and they tend to want to hatch their best and don’t take a lot of chances. When you make a film with a more modest budget, this is about 8.5 million, you have the ability to take more chances. We developed this outside the traditional figure. That was one of the other reasons to produce the film in this kind of way. We wanted to have an ambiguity, and we wanted to have perhaps an ending that’s not foreseen by people. If I looked to some of my favorite horror films over the past I would site things like Don’t Look Now and Rosemary’s Baby. I would site The Shining, and that’s something all those films had in common. That was what we were shooting for with this one.

Of course that’s always a concern. On one hand it can be a concern, and on the other hand it can be exciting to bring a new voice in; people who have been beaten down and forced to compromise too many times in the studio system. Jason has a huge love and enthusiasm for this kinds of film. We really like his Take This Lollipop, which is very innovative and very disturbing. There was definitely a learning curve with Jason in terms of stepping into feature filmmaking, so we tried to surround him with a lot of decent people like the cinematographer, and certainly David, Tory, and myself.

Yes, yes we was. Well I am a huge fan of her work in Game of Thrones. I also enjoyed her work in Hunger Games, and she did a BBC radio adaptation of Neverwhere that I really enjoyed. We knew we needed a very accomplished actress because she is going to be 95 percent of the film. And I knew Natalie was someone I was interested in working with for a while. Tory and myself made a short list with five actresses that we were interested in and Natalie was first one our list. It quickly became obvious that she was who we wanted, and she did a fantastic job.

So a lot of people will tell you: “‘oh the location is a character in this film”. But in most movies that’s just a line, and it’s not really true. In our case the forest is a character. It’s also the supernatural element of course, like the house in Crimson Peak. So we thought of the forest sort of like a haunted house. We knew we couldn’t film in Aokigahara itself, but we were determined to film a certain portion of the film in Japan. Then we started searching for a forest on the same kind of latitude and longitude as Aokigahara that looked as similar as possible, and we were shocked when our location manager came back and said “I think I found a match – the Tara Forest in Serbia”. We certainly weren’t looking in Serbia, but it turns out it’s a very good match.

That’s the thing that’s surprising about Aokigahara. Even though it has this terrible reputation or mystery drugging it, it’s actually is a incredibly beautiful and serene place. Very haunting, and that’s one of the reasons it has this strange kind of a lure.

Yes, for purposes of research. It’s a very special place.

Absolutely would love to do another horror film,  and it’s completely based on subject matter. If it’s new and developing and it’s the right story – then I will do it. It’s one of the genres that I love.