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I saw Spider Forest at the Toronto International Film Festival last
night. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure of what to expect from it -
was it a horror film? Or was it a detective story, a thriller, or
something altogether different? The answer, I think, is that it is all
of those things.
The film begins with a series of mysterious and shocking events in a cabin in the forest, and much like a spider's web, returns to this place quite often in an attempt to unravel its secrets.
Spider Forest manages to avoid most of the modern horror/suspense/thriller conventions, including scary pale children and does not rely on special effects to set the mood. Instead, the psychological predicament of the main character creates an atmosphere of blurred confusion and distrust of one's own memory.
The story is entirely unique and never quite goes in the direction the audience is expecting.
I give a confident recommendation to see this film.
Before seeing Spider Forest last night at the Toronto International
Film Festival (agree with comments by cbranje, the ROM theatre is not
the best at masking outside sounds, though the occasional rumble of the
subway did add an extra shot of tension to some of the more suspenseful
scenes), I'd heard it described as a film for those who liked
'Mulholland Drive' but found it too linear. While I don't think it's a
very accurate statement, the film does invite comparisons to David
Lynch. The creepy tone, gruesome murder scene, elliptical narrative
structure, and ambiguous plot resolution are all Lynchian trademarks
but I think Spider Forest is a little more straightforward or at least
it lends itself more readily to a range of interpretations.
The set up: a man wakes in the forest, discovers the mutilated corpses of coworkers in a house in a forest, and pursues a man he believes to be the killer. Though most of the ensuing story is told in what may be hazy, and possibly wholly fictitious, recollections of the past, each memory recreates a moment of truth that one could easily see as happening to this man. We see him mourn the loss of his wife then hear other stories about death and loss and wonder, are these manifestation's of one event or separate incidents that actually occurred.
The film poses epistemological questions like: How do we know that we know? What differentiates consciousness from sleep? Is what we consider reality merely our continual reconstruction of our past experiences? For me, figuring out what's happened to the main character in 'Spider Forest' is akin to piecing together the fragments of a bizarre dream, but with the pleasure of seeing these fragments unfold in a series of beautifully shot frames.
This is a very good film about a man trying to find and understand himself after the devastating loss of his wife in a plane crash. The answers to all his questions and secrets lie within the Spider Forest. So no, don't go into this movie thinking that it is a horror film with spiders running around killing people. There are a couple of "tense" moments" but, unlike American films, these are not done gratuitously, and are there to serve as points of development for the characters and do not deter the tempo of this film from being a deep character study of one man's self discovery. Great acting by all aboard is only strengthened by a solid script and talented director. This film reminded me a lot of a Japanese film called the Uninvited. So if you liked that one, you can't miss Spider Forest.
Spider Forest is one of those films that not everyone is going to like,
but I for one thought it was excellent. Unfortunately it is difficult
to describe the plot more than it already has been in other comments as
knowing too much about this film will spoil it's magic.
This is a dark, intricate, intelligent, atmospheric and somewhat spiritual movie in my opinion. Certainly worth seeing for anyone who likes to walk out of a cinema with questions floating around their heads.
Great performances, characters, cinematography, direction, and one of the most interesting scripts I have seen in a while. This has probably been billed as some kind of horror or thriller genre film, but to me it is more human drama or art-house film. Korea is becoming the best place to find films that weave intricate human stories into other genres of film to elevate the stories above the competition.
Spider Forest is definitely a great piece of cinema that will make you think and will stay with you well after the credits roll.
I also scoped this movie out at the Toronto Festival (Sept 14th). They
showed it at the ROM theatre which has the unfortunately acoustic
property of being directly over a subway.
I liked this movie a lot, more for its style than anything else. The tunnel scene has some of the coolest lighting I've seen in a while. The plot was a bit hard to follow and I did leave the theatre scratching my head a bit. I didn't know what to expect at all, so it took me a while to get with the flow. I'd like to see this film again to get a better handle on the story.
I definitely recommend this film for fans of visual, stylistic film making.
"Spider Forest" is a South Korean movie which would be better
classified as a psychological thriller, in my opinion. Some would say
it's a drama. Others would argue that it's really a horror movie,
depending on your interpretation.
And that's what this movie is about: Interpretation. Much like David Lynch's puzzle movies, this one is all about what's real or not, and it's up to you to decide what's happening.
Two things I can say about it - it's that the movie has a cyclical nature, and that there's no real closure on screen. The ending can be interpreted as hopeful or depressingly frustrating, or anything else entirely. It's up to the viewer to decide.
So, While "Spider Forest" has many elements borrowed from other movies ("Mullholland Dr", "The I Inside", and to a lesser extent "Memento" and even "Lost" in the forest scenes), they are done well here, and help make a quality movie that poses a lot of questions, answers them all only to have you wondering what really happened in the end.
If you like this kind of movie (I know I do), get inside the Spider Forest...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A TV station manager and female reporter under his employ are found
brutally murdered in a cabin within Spider Forest. Someone at the scene
of the crime(Woo-seong Kam)may have all the answers. Unfortunately, he
walks in front of a moving vehicle which causes a major gash on the
side of his head(a powerful image shows a puddle of trickling blood
pattern from underneath his face)inside a tunnel and loses memory.
During the duration of the film, he'll have to piece together
everything that occurred during that time revolving around the murders.
This outline is as easy as it gets because this is one very elusive,
complex film which will probably take multiple viewings to fully become
aware of how the Spider Forest controls the story's unfolding.
In true Lynchian form, there are probably MANY different opinions to the film. Who's the voice telling our protagonist to see his lover's rendezvous with his boss(the very boss who gave him one last story, on a "haunted forest" before looking for employment elsewhere)in the Spider Forest? Who is the man, cloaked in darkness who knocks out protagonist over the head after the knowledge of a horrible crime?
We have a scene where a spider bites our protagonist who later becomes feverish and needs assistance from a young, mysterious woman named Min Su-in(Jung Suh)who was his voice in an article regarding the "haunted forest" for which he was assigned in the first place. The spiders within the "haunted forest", according to Min, aren't your ordinary garden-variety spiders. She tells our protagonist a story or two. Both have great importance to him for we understand that he is reliving these memories(or reliving a jumbling of thoughts and fantasies where we're never quite sure which were actually lived or envisioned)bit by bit unfolding what occurred to the two slain victims. One is that spirits live within the Spider forest..forgotten spirits loved by no one. These spirits exist in our world. The legend is that if nobody loved the deceased spirit it becomes a spider and is trapped in the forest forever. SOOOO, the spider that left the fever and mark on our protagonist..was it a spirit? Min also tells him about a little girl and boy and the affair and murder they witness.
A key piece to the conversation regarding the spider-turned spirits that interested me greatly was Min mentions that they don't know that they are dead because "all their memories disappear." If anyone remembers them..their spirits are set free.
Now, if you're scratching your head at what I just wrote imagine the feeling many viewers have had sitting through it. So many questions and so many interpretations. As detective Choi(Hyeong-seong Jang)searches for the truth working from the information our protagonist gives him, things don't always add up. Min Su-in, for instance, isn't alive at all, but died as a little girl. The story of the little girl and the little boy becomes apparent as Choi finds a certain teacher who informs him about Min Su-in and her tragic death through illness, just like the little girl in the story told to our protagonist. Our protagonist's identity will be revealed to Choi and things SLIGHTLY add up.
The one true element I believe that is a constant no matter what other unorthodox things are introduced to us..the protagonist's wife died in a plane crash and two people were brutally slain. The other things within the mind-bending plot structure seem to always hearken back to one or the other. Specifically, our protagonist and what part he had that tragic night in Spider Forest. The use of ambiguity.."what's not right with this picture & what really happened?"is really well used here because we are sent through the ringer with the protagonist who experiences bizarre memories that seem very real..but are they created within a confused mind?
As Kurosawa adapted Shakespeare into Japanese Samurai films, Song did
European folklore, or maybe Kafka, into modern Korea. For me, European
folklore is a story that boys and girls are lost in labyrinthine woods
- Hanzel and Gretel or Red Riding Hood. A TV producer, Kang Min, lost
his way in woods and his time, his memory, his unconsciousness messed
up and mixed. In this chaotic situation, Kang Min meets a mysterious
woman (Suh Jeong) who tells the legend of Spider Forrest.
Director Song emphasizes the tone, mood, and atmosphere rather than coherent storytelling. Especially the lighting of tunnel scene reminds me Krzystof Kieslowski's The Double Life of Veronica and Decalogue.
Very unique film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Spider Forest is a 2004 South Korean psychological thriller written and
directed by Song Il-gon.It tells a story of a man who is suffering from
despair and loss in the road to a twisted journey.It stars Gam Wu-seong
and Suh Jung together with Kang Kyeong-heon,Jung,Jang Hyeong-seong and
Spider Forest starts when Kang Min wakes up in the middle of a forest and wanders toward a nearby cabin, where he's shocked to find the scene of a brutal, bloody crime. A man lies hacked to death, and Kang Min's girlfriend, Su-young lies dying of stab wounds nearby. Kang Min sees a dark figure fleeing the cabin and gives chase. Eventually he winds up in a tunnel, where he is struck down by a speeding SUV. In the hospital with a head injury and suspected of murder, Kang tries to recall what happened for his policeman friend, Choi. In flashback, we see Kang, a TV producer, try to deal with the tragic death of his wife. As he sinks into a pit of alcoholism and despair, Su-young, a co-worker who shares a secret bond with him, tries to rouse him out of his funk. When Kang is assigned to investigate rumors that Spider Forest, the remote wood where the murder took place, is haunted, he asks a girl from the region, Su-in ,to tell him all about the local legend. As it turns out, Kang has his own mysterious connection to the ghost story.
Spider Forest gives me another reason why I can obviously affirm that Koreans are truly one of the best when it comes to world cinema.The movie is definitely not your typical film that has an obvious plot.Many details are left to the audience as it tries to involve them as part of the story.Although it was chastised by South Korea (and some viewers who are not used to these type of movies) when it was released due to its non-mainstream features,it was truly an original piece of work as the puzzle of events makes it absorbing and interesting.Needless to say,it was superbly directed as it was well-shot,greatly written and developed extremely well that viewers will definitely won't be lost amidst the jigsaw of events and the complexities of the main characters especially Kang Min and Min Su-jin.Credit also goes to Gam Wu-seong and Suh Jung for the portrayal of their characters. It was truly a great mix of psychological thriller,murder mystery,horror,sex and violence in telling a man's own ghost story.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had to watch this film once, visit IMDb and read all I could from
other folks attempting to explain it, then watch it again before
arriving at a score of nine. The first viewing left me bewildered. The
Spider Forest is a place where the souls of those who die alone or
unloved live in limbo as spiders until someone remembers them. That's a
kinda cool premise. The Spider Forest is also the cobwebbed memories
each of us navigate as we attempt to deal with trauma, guilt, shame,
This is one of those Korean films which could not exist or be told in linear narrative. There are shots and scenes that come out of nowhere and seem not to touch anything around them until much later in the movie. This can be very frustrating. So why watch it again? As one can imagine, these out-of-nowhere scenes look completely different after you've been to the end once. All the nuances of the very simple story blossom the second time through.
The film is beautifully shot and the acting top notch. SPOILER ALERT !! Jung Suh, from GREEN CHAIR and the ISLE is beautiful and captivating in a very understated performance in dual roles, which, by the way, is a huge spoiler (notice this info is absent from the credits) that doesn't spoil a thing.
This film is incredibly complex without being obtuse. It is more of a journey than a story. I will be watching it many more times.
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