In my series of bad movie ideas, I have yet to come up with a horror movie. Horror is a genre that is pretty played out. There are the psych thrillers, slashers, horror-comedies, gross out horror porn, and fantasy horror films. One genre that I think could use some development is the detective horror film. At the core of the mother of all slashers films, "Psycho" is the detective story of 'whatever happened to marion crane?' People forget that in "The Ring" Naomi Watts investigates into her niece's death and the mystery of a tape. The plot of a journalist investigating the death unravels. It loses the basic mystery a bit. That is the vibe I would be going for: a reasonable premise with a scary side. This is where "Dead Forest" goes for horror and suspense.
"Dead Forest" would be a centered around a sibling looking into the death of their brother in the Aokigahara Forest. The movie starts with older brother going to Japan for a business assignment. While there he does the normal integrating montage set in Tokyo and late in the sequence meets a girl for the night. Things get frisky but jump cut we see them hanging from a tree in the forest. This is ruled a suicide, and the protagonist is introduced to the audience when the family arrives to pick up remains. The protagonist will talk after the official police statement with the parents how he/she received a text from big brother saying "japan is kewl" or some other stupid text speak. Maybe a family message of how they think something is awesome. The parents then will say "leave it be, let it lie", but no, the protagonist has to look into it. The itch must be scratched, something seems too unusual.
The protagonist will then explore Tokyo to look into big brother's last days. Protag asks for the police file and has a reluctant police contact as a guide. Protag visits the company big bro was visiting on assignment but gets stonewalled. Leaving the office, a young worker smoking a cig spills some secrets. They converse and that leads to trips to subterranean bars, clubs, gambling dens. You name it. There are shady characters watching protag, hinting at danger. This goes nowhere, and one night of drinking leads to a drunken meet up with the cop. The cop drops protag at a hotel and says he will return. He says that he will help the protag.
The cop's visit starts the real investigation. The cop explains how the big bro was found in "Aokigahara Forest". The cop will take him there. Th drive out there will have a conversation on family. It will get a bit Blair Witchy here as even though they go in the daytime, the dense tree cover will make it dark. They will hear things, freak a bit, and stumble on other dead bodies. Seeing the suicide on the tree, the protag will notice something on the wrist. There will be a flash and he'll tell the cop that they have to review the file again. They leave and back at the hotel, they see the photos from the file. The suicide in the forest had clean wrists while the big bro had slight bruising on his wrists, as if he had been tied. The cop then thinks this is strange and should have been easy to spot. The next day the cop checks the file and determines the policeman assigned to that case. He then checks other Aokigahara suicides handled by that cop. Same thing, ruled suicides but wrist bruising. Suicides with wrist bruising by other cops are left unsolved/undetermined.
This leads the protag to have to tail the suspected cop. The guide cop can't do it because he has to work that day. This leads to the protag tailing him at bars and clubs. Eventually he sees the suspected cop meet up with small group of men. Things look normal. Then they see a separate man go to the men's room. A couple guy's from the suspect's group go to the men's room while others leave. This leads the protag to contact the good cop and tell him how it looks like a small group of men, including suspect cop, have abducted a man. Guide cop picks up protag and then make for the forest at night. Oh yeah, it's a nightime showdown in the Dead Forest. They have to move through the forest without lights but while watching the bad guy group. They stumble into dead bodies and have to suppress screams. Score would be important because there'd be no dialogue. They see the bad guys with the tied man from the bar. The guide cop and protag have to quietly take out a few of the bad guys and get down to just two bad guys, suspect cop and random baddie. They threaten to kill the abducted guy, creating a mini-standoff. We get some little 'Murder she Wrote' explanation from the suspect cop, maybe something weird where they had always wanted to know how murder felt and used the suicide forest of Aokigahara as cover. Power to take a life. Him being a cop gave them cover for certain murders. Protag's big brother was just an accident of banging japanese girl in the bar's bathroom. Portag finally realizes the bluff of the baddies. They can't overtly kill the abdcuted guy because they need to make it look like a suicide. Protag shoots the baddie holding the abducted guy. All are stunned. Protag explains it as I just typed. Cop then handcuffs suspect cop. He orders protag to take abducted guy back to the car. Protag gets to car, gets abducted guy dressed and then guide cop comes to car alone. They leave. Shot of suspect cop hanging. Denoument as protag talks to cop about how he had to resolve things. Guide cop says he will tell families of the other fake suicides what really transpired. Protag goes back to America, learning a little about themself and helping their family's acceptance of big bro's death. Either end it on the plane with some menacing looking Japanese guy behind the protag or end it in the airport terminal meeting up with his family, with menacing looking japanese guy in sunglasses looking on.
Oh this is easily set up for a sequel. This could print money in the horror genre with the 'go to any horro film' fans, and with some savvy marketing get drama viewers.
Protagonist: I'm torn about casting a male or female. I trust so few males in Hollywood under 30. Ryan Gosling? Topher Grace? The role doesn't need a physical presence, which is great for modern young male actors, and those two would be my A and B picks. As far as casting a woman, I would lean towards a young female since I do not have a love interest written in, so this would be a way to have that fake romance in with the male cop (a la Pelican Brief). Olivia Wilde. Huge fan since her days on the failed Fox show "Skin", and I have enjoyed her intelligent and destined to die young work on "House". She's in Tron: Legacy this year, and is waiting for movie roles so she can jump to the Big Screen and leave TV behind for good.
Big Brother: Steve Zahn - Crazy brother who goes on a business trip and ends up dead? This was written for him. Has to be someone with personality and a zest for life that one would question a suicide no matter what Japanese officials said. Zahn is a great supporting character, and in a heavy, dark movie, I'd want that lead in 10 mins to be happy and fun.
I'm hurting for Asian actors. Hollywood is so racist that instead of launching the career of some young Asian actor in the movie 21, they cast a white kid. They do this often. Heck, Aaliyah couldn't kiss Jet Li in "Romeo Must Die". Dead serious, go back and read how that kiss scene is a deleted scene on the cutting room floor.
Guide Cop: Hiro Sanada - That bad ass from the Last Samurai and annoying character from LOST's sixth season. He's old enough and speaks English.
Suspect Cop: John Cho - Cho's not Japanese, but he is Asian. He does have some drama under his belt with "Flashforward". I think he'd take the chance to be a small part in a horror film. To be a bad guy would also be against type for him with his Harold and Kumar/MILF Guy roles.