Story by: Dean Crawford, Photos by:
Thriller / Mystery
112 minutes / Directed by Song Il-gon / R
While wandering in the strange woods known as the Spider Forest, Kang-min (Kam Woo-sung) comes across an old cabin wherein his girlfriend, struggling for life, is laying beside a dead body. After seeing the unknown attacker hiding outside the cabin, he gives chase but is hit by a car. The murderer lingers over Kang-min, watching his life slip away as he falls into a coma. Upon awakening, Kang-min tries to piece together the events that led to the death of his girlfriend, which proves increasingly difficult as his memories seem to contradict the evidence at hand. Is Kang-min trying to cover his tracks or are the mysterious secrets of the Spider Forest real and trying to claim another victim?
I feel like it’s almost a cliché to describe an art house film as Lynch-ian, but the mood and dream-like (or is that nightmare-like?) feel of this film bears a striking resemblance to “Eraserhead” (1977), and its Möbius strip narrative owes a debt to “Lost Highway” (1997). It’s a slow and foreboding film that challenges its viewer with unanswered questions. It’s no surprise that the film fared better overseas than in Korea upon its initial release 10 years ago, as it definitely has a European avant-garde sensibility running through its core.
Song Il-gon proves himself to be an accomplished independent director in terms of style and story, but he also manages to get some of the best performances I’ve seen in a Korean movie in a long while. The natural inclination for actors to overplay each scene is nowhere to be seen, so when Kang-min finally does explode it packs a punch, rather than feeling like another in a long line of over-the-top moments.
I may have approached the movie as a tongue-in-cheek way of celebrating the festive season, but I ended up getting an excellent early Christmas present that I never expected. If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers and films that deal with identity, then “Spider Forest” (2004) is a must-see.