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Spider Forest
cast: Woo Seong-kam, Jung Suh, Kyeong-heon Kan, Hyeong Seong-jan

director: Il-gon Song

120 minutes (15) 2004
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Tartan Asia Extreme DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Gary McMahon
It's difficult to review a film as complex and intricate as Spider Forest (aka: Geomi sup) without giving anything away - each scene peels back like another layer of the onion, to reveal more of the plot, and to describe any of the scenes in great detail would rob them of both purpose and context. The film begins with a man called Kang Min (Woo Seong-kam) waking up on a forest floor, going to a nearby house, and discovering the slashed bodies of a man and a woman, two of his co-workers at the television studio where he is employed as a producer. The man is long dead but the woman passes away in Min's arms, whispering something about spiders.

Min flees the scene, in pursuit of a stranger he glimpses through a window. He reaches a highway underpass and is run down by a car when distracted by the stranger emerging from a door in the concrete tunnel wall. He awakes in hospital, after lying in a coma, and begins to relate his story to a policeman friend, Choi (Hyeong seong), who he begs to go to Spider Forest and discover its secrets.

I'll stop there - the twists and turns which follow are part of what makes the film so special, and possess a beauty and logic all of their own. Nothing is as it first seems and no one can be trusted - even our narrator. Themes of loss and memory, grief and anguish are pursued along a labyrinth of puzzles and ciphers. The genres of mystery, horror and melodrama are blurred and meshed, creating something new and interesting.

The film exists in a world of its own, not a million miles away from the nightmarish visions of David Lynch, and in the end everything makes a kind of sense within the parameters of that world. The acting is uniformly good - subtle and elegant. The cinematography is breathtaking, the direction fluid and confident. I may have missed a few references regarding the political situation in Korea (indeed, it strikes me the film might well be meant as a political allegory), but that matters little in the final analysis. Spider Forest is a beautiful bad dream, a rich and satisfying dip into restless psychological waters.
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