Spider Forest (2004)

spider forest poster

This was originally written and posted on October 4, 2006.

A Neo-noir mystery wrapped in a detective story pretending to be a horror film, Spider Forest is a little bit of everything but not enough of anything to be as excellent as I had hoped. It starts out incredibly strong but meanders in the middle trying to be as confusing as possible before coming to an interesting if not entirely satisfying ending.

The film begins with Kang Min (Woo-seong Kam) stumbling across a grisly murder in a small cabin in the middle of the woods. A man is gruesomely lying on the floor having been hacked to death, and we see every bloody detail. Unlike most cop shows where dead men have small blood stains on their shirt, but otherwise look perfectly fine, the camera here shows that murder is a disgusting, dirty thing, expulsing blood and guts in a nasty mess.

As Kang Min walks further into the home he sees his girlfriend lying on the bed, beaten and battered. She can only say something about spiders and that she is scared before finally succumbing to death. But what’s this? The killer is still in the house and Kang Min chases him outside into the forest. Unfortunately, the killer is too quick for him and backtracks to beat Kang Min with a club.

Left for dead Kang Min stumbles up and wanders for help on a lone stretch of highway. A car, not seeing him, hits him straight on, and again he is left for dead. He is eventually found and taken to the hospital.

In a wonderful opening scene for Detective Choi (Jang Hyeon-seong) we see him and several other cops staging a raid on a gang resting inside an apartment. As the men give a three count before busting in, Choi’s cellular phone rings and ruins the surprise. With nothing to do but break down the door, the cops charge in and beat the villains to a bloody pulp. Then, while sitting on top of one bad guy, Choi answers his still-ringing phone.

It is a lovely, sadistic, and hilarious bit of filmmaking.

The caller was someone from the hospital informing Choi of Kang Min’s accident and Choi rushes over to meet him.

It is here that the film verges off into the land of confusion. Several times it jumps and cuts through time without much warning. I was often confused as to where I was in the timeline and just who I was seeing on the screen. We see Kang Min meeting his wife, meeting his girlfriend after his wife has died in multiple flashbacks we see the killing in the cabin as King Min begins to remember exactly what did happen.

Some of these scenes are incredibly interesting and kept me begging for more clues, while others tended to drag and not move the plot forward in any distinct way. I suppose this was to add to the mystery of it all and keep the audience guessing, but ultimately it felt like sloppy editing.

I won’t give away the ending, but it is the sort of film that even after everything is wrapped up you may not fully understand. I had to give it considerable thought and consult some online forums to decipher it fully. Which, depending on your personality is either an annoying way to tie things up or a brilliant way to finish.

In the end, it contained a number of wonderful moments but was marred by a lack of consistency in development. What’s brilliant is well worth watching and there is enough to chew on after the credits roll, but the promise of the first twenty minutes is never lived up to in the end.

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