Deep in the forest, a man and woman have been brutally attacked in a cabin and left to die. Arriving too late, Kang chases the killer only to be hit by a speeding car. Barely surviving surgery, he now finds himself a prime... more » suspect. He cannot shake the feeling that there are strange gaps in his memory regarding that night and the killer's identity. While police set out to confirm his story, he begins his own quest to remember the truth about the murder and himself.« less
"Spider Forest illustrates a twisted narrative that flutters with total freedom in several unexpected directions. Nothing is absolute in this tale, as the story applies flashbacks, time loops, and converging timelines. Past and future unite in the present while emotions color the moment in a unification of a cerebral mesh of dreams, thoughts, and feelings. Such promise surfaces in the opening shot where the camera zooms through a window on a mysterious character's back while staring out into a dark forest. Yet, the series of events follow a logically linear outline that surrounds a murder mystery in a haunted location. With this said, be warned, and do not take your eyes off the screen, as it might leave you lost in a cerebral maze.
A nightly excursion brings the protagonist, Kang Min (Woo-seong Kam), to a thick forest where he awakens in dirt and blood while trying to recapture his bearings. Simultaneously, the shadows playfully create imaginative characters among the vast number of bamboo trees that surrounds him. Stumbling, Min discovers an isolated cabin within the forest, which he approaches with watchful eyes. Min enters the cabin where he finds a severely lacerated male body, which shows signs of vicious struggle. In the adjacent room, he uncovers a young woman who holds onto life on a thin thread, which is no other than his own girlfriend. Alas, she dies in his arms, as he hears a strange noise from somewhere within the wood cottage. Vigilantly, Min investigates the sound, as he reveals that the killer is still on the premises. A short chase through the murky forest ends up with him being struck into unconsciousness once again.
Lightheaded and aimlessly Min awakens a second time while wandering into a lit tunnel. Inside the tunnel, he stops when he notices someone observing him. However, he is still too faint to make out who it is, and it distracts his limited attention to the dangers that lurk on the highways. And again Min ends up in a state of deep sleep induced by an accident from which he does not wake up from until medical doctors have attended to his severe head trauma. Min is left with his grave head injuries, as he slowly regains some foothold in reality and can alarm the police about the murders in the wood cabin.
Through intriguing flashbacks the story begins to unfold, as Min shares his faulty memory of the nightly excursion and his discovery of the murders. The flashbacks reveal that Min visited the forest due to an assignment to investigate some haunted circumstances of the forest. He also shares how he lost an old girl friend to a plane crash while information is exposed of an old murder that took place some twenty years ago in the woods. As the story goes on, the story becomes increasingly muddled, maybe it is the ghost of the forest that haunts him, or maybe it is simply his head injury that makes it difficult for Min to make out what is truth and what is fiction. Perhaps there is another reason that is waiting to be brought into daylight. Nonetheless, the truth does not reveal itself until the very final scene, and it keeps the viewer in thrilling suspense.
The story uses, as mentioned, a tangled storyline that expects to be untangled by the viewer through Min's slowly returning memory. It is a shrewd approach to the story that the director and writer Il-gon Song apply, as it forces the viewer to be as preoccupied with the truth as Min. At the same time, Song employs subtle clues and diversion that keeps the suspense lingering while the constant feeling of wickedness never leaves the mind. However, there are momentarily symbolic clues that seem to seep through Min's damage mind, which surface through inspiring scenes, framing and mise-en-scene. To capture these brief moments, the audience must, as previously warned, pay close attention to all aspects of this remarkable mystery tale."
What "Tale of Two Sisters" tried - and failed - to be: Bril
I'm sitting here trying to think of what to say about this movie and what I'm getting is a stream of adjectives... Bewildering; brutal; heart-wrenching; astonishing; baffling; mind-bending; ingenious; perplexing; poetic...
And that's weird because when I'd finished watching (about an hour ago,) it was something I hadn't decided whether to love or hate. Thankfully, with some serious thought and a vital clue I got from somebody else, I was able to unravel my confusion, clear away some of the, er, cobwebs, and discard the latter option. Or maybe I'm just dense. 8^D "Spider Forest" is a truly remarkable story and an unexpected gem of a psychological mystery-thriller - that just happens to elevate "thought-provoking" to the "rip out your hair" level. I can't wait to dive into a second helping.
There are a dozen utterly perplexing paradoxes in this story, the most significant of which involves the intentional confusion of the protagonist's character with another, creating an inescapable time-loop - which left me shaking my head and talking to the screen like a lunatic. A similar paradox involving a different major character had me hitting pause - so as to ponder the implications of it all. When I resumed, it soon became evident that these complex twists and turns were to be regular occurrences. But unlike... another recent Korean thriller, in "Spider Forest" the wrenching, mind-blowing plot twists had a definite, calculated, and most importantly, logical purpose: To weave an intricate puzzle around one solid, definite final truth whose eventual revelation unfolds with the elegance and dramatic impact of a symphony. Remember how the UFO tune "Love to Love" ends? Schenker's heady, stratospheric crescendo that finally - and abruptly - crashes to Earth with a finality that leaves you physically shaken? The ending of "Spider Forest" is a lot like that, one of the most artful finishes of a film I've seen since the final seconds of "Blood Simple" (yet completely unlike it.)
The mood is as relentless and emotionally edgy as that of the Mickey Roarke film "Prayer for the Dying"; the photography is dark and atmospheric without being either contrived or openly depressing; the acting is great all around; the supernatural tinges are understated enough to allow the film to be classified as a completely non-supernatural mystery, yet serve to tie the story threads together comfortably and seamlessly - something that would likely have been botched in the hands of a lesser writer/director.
The real star of the show is of course the story itself. It's a brilliant, circular thing that reminds me of Pink Floyd's "Wall" or maybe just that circular, intertwined knot on the cover of King Crimson's classic "Discipline." As it progresses you're kept in a constant state of agitation - that gnawing feeling that there's something vital you've missed (and in fact you will have,) something you can almost get a handle on but not quite - just as the next tidbit of knowledge passes before you, then quickly flits away before you can get a grasp of it. The overall effect is to leave you in something of a daze - not a daze of disgust for a puzzle that's insoluble by design (like... another recent Korean thriller,) but rather the healthy agitation of grappling with a worthy challenge to your intellect.
That, folks, is great storytelling."
Very Complex Murder Mystery: Terrific Cinematography!
Ernest Jagger | Culver City, California | 12/04/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The less said about this film, the better. To say too much would give away the film, and thus ruin it for those who have not seen this film. The film itself is circular in nature: Both the past and present are one in this film. When I first viewed this film last year, I was a bit confused, however, with subsequent viewings I began to understand the film much more. It does require repeated viewings, and may not appeal to all viewers. I know this because many people I have recommended this film to did not like it. Therefore, caution is advised when viewing this film.
The main character in the film, Kang, (Gam Woo-sung) who portrays both the protagonist and antagonist, stumbles across a cabin deep inside a forest, where he finds a man and a woman brutally attacked in this cabin. As he chases the attacker he is hit by a car. Kang remains in critical condition at the hospital after brain surgery, and finds that he is the primary suspect in the brutal attack and murder of the man and woman in the cabin. What ensues is a mind trip for the viewer, as Kang attempts to piece together the missing gaps in his memory. This is a very complex film, and where the truth leads Kang is one hell of a nightmare."
An Entralling Suspense Thriller that blends Beauty, the Supe
Woopak | Where Dark Asian Knights Dwell | 03/01/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"SPIDER FOREST (a.k.a. Geomi Sup, 2004) is a South Korean film that relatively took in a fair box-office take. Fortunately, from what I've gathered, the film did take in a surmountable amount in dvd sales. Directed by Il Gon-Song, "Spider Forest" is equal parts mystery, detective thriller and the supernatural. It also stars one of my favorite South Korean actresses; Jung Suh (Sometimes known as Seo Jeong), renowned for her role in Kim Ki-Duk's "The Isle", "Yellow Flower" and "Green Chair". This film is geared towards those who can appreciate good cinema, with a methodical approach that sidesteps the basic style of linear storytelling. The film has a Category III rating in Asia, which equals to NC-17 in the U.S.
Plot synopsis based on the dvd back cover: Deep in the forest, a man and a woman have been brutally attacked in a cabin and left to die. Arriving too late, Kang (Gam Woo-Sung) chases the killer only to be hit by a speeding car. Barely surviving the surgery, he now finds himself a prime suspect in the double murder case. While a police investigation sets out to confirm his story, he cannot shake the feeling that there are strange gaps in his memory regarding the night in question and the killer's identity. As he tries to piece together the fragments of a bizarre dream, He crosses paths with a very beautiful and enigmatic woman named Su-jin (Jung Suh). Kang slowly begins to realize that his own nightmares may hold the key to the truth.
Not surprising that "Spider Forest" may alienate viewers used to the basic plot and twists, the film jumps around in timeline from Kang's relationship with his wife, to his investigation, to his conversations with Su-jin. What is truly amazing with the screenplay is that the film really encourages the viewer to work and take in the hidden, subtle clues and details dispersed throughout. It will probably make some folks say "I give up, the heck with this" but those who pay attention will be rewarded with a very awesome experience. The proceedings are almost "dream-like" in its execution and contains some smaller tales as well; such as "The legend of Spider Forest" which tells of restless and unloved souls who hide in this forest until they are remembered and loved again. No, the film is not about huge spiders spewing webs and devouring anyone in its path. I cannot spoil the fun for you, you will have to find out the relevance of its title for yourself.
While the killer's identity may be seen halfway through the film, and experienced viewers (like me) will no doubt figure out the mystery. What really grabbed me is the "slow reveal" that gives you tiny bits of information that lets you go by in every waking moment. "Spider Forest" isn't too much of detective work but a mystery saga that doesn't rely on the usual gruesome crap to keep you on your toes. Don't get me wrong, there is blood and gore, and for a Korean film, it does have quite a lot of sex scenes and nudity to awaken male hormones. Kang's a very likeable guy and viewers will no doubt form an attachment to him, it was very interesting to see him doubt himself and his memory of the said evening. The film's psychological aspect gives a possible scenario after possible conclusion after conclusion that causes us to argue the fact that the proceedings may be nothing more than fiction. Very nice touches, reminiscent of films like "Memento" and "Next Door".
The outstanding cinematography and visuals are what carried the film aside from its unorthodox style. There are some subtle symbols to be interpreted by the viewer (as to why Kang's wife plays mime), hidden secrets that effectively adhere to a whole. The wonderful shots of the countryside, that shifts to the impression that it may be a dream, then it grabs you by the throat with a touch of violent behavior; "sickle stabbing", anyone? The haunting music, the terrific performances by Gam Woo-Sung and the awesomely beautiful Jung Suh, all complement this film to climactic questions. The supporting cast isn't bad, either. Particularly, Kang's girlfriend (I lost her name), she exudes a certain intimidating sexiness to her character that rivals Jung Suh's erotic charisma. (Too bad, this is one film that you won't see Jung Suh in her Birthday suit)
There are a lot of questions that may arise from this film. The director somewhat relies on the film's climax to give us an idea that two separate issues did happen, is it a dream? Is it a parallel to a reality? Some viewers will be frustrated unless they paid extra attention to its entirety. It may leave some viewers scratching their heads and a bit depressed for Kang's situation.
True, South Korea may still be developing in the horror genre, and sadly, "Spider Forest" has been billed as being one. To close, the film is truly enthralling and an effective "Noirish" psychological thriller for the esoteric few (I've been using this term a lot lately) that appreciates methodical cinema. Equal parts murder mystery and the mind-boggling, it succeeds in all the areas that "A Tale of Two Sisters" wanted to but failed. It kicks the heck out of MOST Hollywood thrillers!
Highly Recommended! [4 Stars]
Spider Forest is a worthy extension of cinematic ghost lore.
Jenny J.J.I. | That Lives in Carolinas | 08/21/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie demands the viewer's close attention -- a meditation on memory and loss in which the semantics of film narrative are fractured and slowly re-arranged and rebuild over its considerable running time. The intention here is not to deliberately confuse the audience, but to replicate the multi layered nature of an extreme experience. In the film's worldview, reality is not a simple thing to understand.
Though unquestionably a horror film -- and a ghost story -- it is not typical in either its concerns or its methods. Like the surrealist films of David Lynch (especially Mulholland Drive), it rewards those willing to fore-go standard expectations and accept that reality's tapestry may be woven according to a logic that is the stuff of nightmare. I'm not sure whether or not Spider Forest resolves all its narrative loose ends or that it completely follows its own internal logic. But by the end its meanings are broadly apparent and as a cinematic experience it repays the effort needed to follow its convoluted path toward emotional resolution. It may not be as tightly controlled as Memento, with which it shares the theme of amnesia, but it may pack more of an emotional punch.
Kang (Woo-seong Kam) awakens, beaten and pained, and while trying to piece together the recent (and distant) past. He meets Min Su-jin (Jung Suh), a strange young woman whose subtle omnipresence suggests a connection with Kang's history that will be central to the narrative's final resolution. To reach that resolution, grief, fear and delusion intermingle and re-form in Kang's battered mind -- and in the mind of the audience, which is forced to experience the story from Kang's point-of-view. Reality and fantasy circle each other with the architectural difficulty of a spider's web -- a web in which Kang (and others) are caught. Temporal paradoxes and realized myth play further havoc with narrative simplicity.
The primary metaphor is that of the Spider Forest itself, a mythic place where the souls of those who are forgotten (and who have forgotten themselves) become the ever-present arachnids that haunt the place. These souls are trapped there in spidery oblivion until such time as they are remembered. This myth is both literal and figurative within the context of the narrative. It is not hard to see how it relates to Kang's psychic journey toward realization and acceptance. There are revelations, though director Il-gon Song does not strive to hide them from us; most viewers will suspect the identity of the murderer long before it is "revealed", as the visual cues are abundant. But the revelation isn't his primary concern. It is the complicated emotions that lie at its heart that matter, along with the details of the temporal web amongst which they have been hidden. This is why the film works -- and why it survives both its arguably excessive length and its conceptual ambiguities. Spider Forest is an extended hallucination, from the threads of which a complex emotional portrait is woven. "