Review: Spider Forest (2004)

Directed by:
Cast: , , , ,

Distributed in Australia by:

This is a very complex film which has qualitites like the distorting mirror of legend: what you get out is a twisted reflection of what is in your soul. Some will proclaim it boring or confusing, and thus dismissable, but I think this would be a mistake. There’s a lot more here than meets the eye.

The film opens with a slow pan through a moonlit forest. As you might guess, the spindly trees are draped with soft webs, and the whole scene has a dreamy, timeless feel. The dream slowly turns sour, as real dreams are wont to turn into nightmares, as Min enters the cabin. There’s something queasily disturbing about the murder scene: instead of fresh crimson blood splashed around the walls, there’s smears of brown crusting the cushions. The first corpse, disclosed by degrees, is in a ludicrously undignified position, and clearly dead for some hours. This discovery of a stale murder scene is somehow more chilling than most cinematic renditions which feature splashed crimson: the grotesquerie of the corpse underlines the sinking horror of the scene. When Min collapses onto the couch gagging, I almost threw up in sympathy.

Director Song has managed to create a half-waking dream that leads the audience into the twisted paths of Min’s mind. Kam Wu-seong, as Min, abandons the ‘I don’t care’ detachment he adopted for R-Point in favour of a plethora of emotions. Horror, fear, desperation, bewilderment, rage, and bleak depression contort Kam’s pleasant features, accompanied by massive bruising from a serious head injury. I had to convince myself that the bandaged, weary-eyed patient staggering from his bed in a search for answers, was the same man as the smiling, playful husband of the flashbacks.

Min’s story is told through a mix of current timeline, semi-dream sequences and flashbacks. Each sequence, however, begins with an awakening. This is at least partly because Min sustained some serious head injuries after his first awakening, and keeps lapsing into a semi-comatose state. So we’re never sure what is real (and real-time), what is flashback, what is imagined, and what is imagined flashback. The whole film has the feel of a fever dream, and avoids easy resolutions and hence easy description. This really makes it a better film, because it will leave you wondering. Images and scenes will pop into your head for days afterwards, teasing and beguiling. You’ll begin to feel that, if only you could review that scene, or that one, it would all fall into place. All would make sense.

Which makes you Min. Welcome to a disturbing world.

8.5 pairs of dolls out of 10.
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