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Original Title:
Geomi sup

South Korea 2004

Mystery, Thriller, Drama

Song Il-gon

Kam Woo-seong
Seo Jeong
Kang Kyeong-heon
Jang Hyeon-seong
Jo Seong-ha
Son Byeong-ho
Jeong Seung-kil

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Spider Forest

Story: Kang Min (Kam Woo-seong) wakes up in a forest near a small cabin. There he finds the bodies of a woman and a man. Someone else seems to be there as well and so Kang barely manages to escape the forest. However, on the street he is run over by a car and ends up in hospital. When he comes to his friend and police detective Seong-hyeon (Jang Hyeon-seong) wants to know what exactly happened. Kang tells him about the murder, but his memories are quite blurry because of the head injury he suffered. After the death of his wife he started seeing a colleague of his, the reporter Su-yeong (Kang Kyeong-heon), and soon after that he went into a town in which the ghost story of a certain forest was doing the round. He got that information from the female photographer Su-jin (Seo Jeong), who eventually told him the legend surrounding the forest. Kang's memories remain foggy, though, and the police has serious problems to find the killer. The search for the motive also remains a difficult task and thus Kang himself remains the only suspect and witness.

Review: There are movies which are completely unique concerning the atmosphere they manage to bring to screen. "Spider Forest" succeeds in taking the viewer into a world between, a world lying in twilight, in which truth and imagination are close to one another. The narration of the movie is rather convoluted and demands great attention of the audience. Memories and reality merge, are condensed to a complex maze only to fall apart in the end, demanding of the viewer to bring the different narration threads into the right order. An effort that the movie surely is worthy of. "Spider Forest" is an unusual mystery thriller that offers a smart story and is always good for a suprise, even at the end.

The foggy forest, the search for a killer and strange legends that the "Spider Forest" is shrouded in create an intense atmosphere that seems like a mix of "Twin Peaks" and "A Tale of Two Sisters". The thriller is at all times enriched by a lot of symbolism and hints that allow the attentive viewer to see some of the twists in advance. But even for that audience director Song Il-gon has some some surprises up his sleeve. The at first rather confusing story development becomes more and more easily to follow and yet there are certain scenes you can miss, resp. which only may become apparent when watching for a second time. As a small hint it may be pointed out that Seo Jeong ("The Isle", "Green Chair") is playing two roles here.

The question for the killer becomes the most insignificant in the movie and the resolution shoudldn't come as a surprise to anyone. It is the background story that is so fascinating. Since the movie is mainly told in flashbacks, from Kang's perspective that is, the story is told in a rather disconnected manner and in chronologically false order. With this the director conveys the confusion of the protagonist who tries to remember fantastically and makes the viewer put himself into the role of Kang at the same time. He succeeds in doing this even more as Kang is a well elaborated character with many facets. Of course it's also the demons he carries with him that make him a lot more three-dimensional. We are just really interested in getting to know what defense mechanisms are preventing him from remembering.

This is also the reason why you have to be on guard at all times. You can't take anything you see on screen for real. Many of what we get to see are only fragments anyway and you certainly should doubt their degree of truth. But somewhere in all that fog the truth is hidden or at least one truth of many. Even though "Spider Forest" doesn't deliver any clear answers it manages astoundingly well to give the viewer the chance to find his own truth. Because of that this mystery thriller doesn't prove to be as frustrating as many other works that are less well thought-out. Of course it still needs a good portion of work in order not to get this feeling of frustration. Therefore this is certainly no thriller you can watch casually but which is aiming at a more experienced audience.

The fantastic story that is located between dream and reality is also carried by extremely atmospheric pictures. Especially the scenes in the forest feel disturbing and creepy. Furthermore, there is a certain incredible strong sadness and feeling of longing running through the whole film. Hopelessness caused by a great loss. The profound pictures are also underlined by a soundtrack that fits well. But apart from the oftentimes surrealistic pictures there are also those that are rather bloody and also some that surprisingly show a lot of skin. However, those pictures always remain an instrument of the story. Besides a rather slow pacing and the fact that as a viewer your grey cells are sometimes even challanged a bit too much, there is only little to criticize about "Spider Forest". An unusual and smart mystery thriller that derserves to be seen not just because of its uniqueness.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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