Friday, October 28, 2011

Spider Forest (2004): or, What Tangled Webs We Weave

October Horror Movie Challenge, Day 27!

 TV journalist Kang Min (Woo-seong Kam) finds himself inexplicably wandering through a beautiful, creepy forest, and soon happens upon what appears to be an abandoned cabin. Inside, however, he discovers the mangled body of a half-naked man, his face frozen in a rictus of terror. In another bedroom he finds his girlfriend, who was apparently there for a tryst with the dead man. Also mortally wounded, the girl babbles cryptically about "The spiders! The spiders!" before expiring in her wronged lover's arms. Hearing a noise outside, Kang Min chases a shadowy figure into the woods, but gets waylaid with a stout tree branch to the noggin. Concussed and confused, he stumbles onto a nearby road, into a tunnel, and is immediately run down by an SUV! As he bleeds out on the pavement, he sees a blurry, dark figure that seems strangely, impossibly familiar...

Flashing back, we follow the events that led up to Kang Min's bad end--or do we? In Spider Forest (2004), writer/director Il-gon Song weaves an intricate web out of his protagonist's past, present, and possible futures. At the center of the web is the mysterious Min Su-Jin (Jung Suh), an enigmatic photo developing clerk who tells him the story of the Spider Forest--a place where ghosts who no one loves or remembers haunt the amnesiac living as eight-legged revenants. As the TV journalist spirals toward the truth, he becomes more and more entangled in his own memories, leading to (naturally) a shocking and slightly head-scratching conclusion.

Some of the commenters on Spider Forest's imdb reviews page compare the style and content here to a David Lynch film, and the comparison is apt. Though the movie has some horror elements--there's a ghost story in there somewhere, and the scene of the double murder is grim, especially later when Kang Min's friend detective Choi (Hyeong-seong Jang) discovers the bodies teeming with baby spiders--but mostly this is a narrative puzzle of a Lynchian stamp, where the viewer is invited to make connections between seemingly disparate events and symbols and interpret the ending on an almost subconscious level. I don't think this flick is quite as inscrutable as much of Lynch's work, but it is tightly constructed and beautifully shot, with some stunning compositions, particularly in the forest itself and the traffic tunnel where Kang Min meets his fate.

The movie doesn't have a lot of pulse-pounding action, and I would really classify it more as "brain-twisting drama" than horror (but imdb classifies it as horror, so I'm keeping it for the Challenge!)--still, it is a very interesting movie that kept me engaged and intrigued. 2.25 thumbs.

"I just want to drive a big, long semi down this tunnel, again and again and again! I don't know why..."


David P. said...

I've got to echo what others have said; Spider Forrest sucks you in and disinterestedly drops you off without paying for dinner.

As a mystery it resonates (suspicion of a lover, bewilderment after death), but as a "mind bending" drama it just feels like it's jumping around.

Answer me this, simply what do the spider's represent?

The Vicar of VHS said...

@David P.--I thought the story about the Spider Forest the girl tells explained that--the spiders are the souls of departed unloved and forgotten, and it's only by the main character remembering that they can be freed. I can see your complaints though.

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