Spider Forest is a baffling scratch of the head where everything seems to make sense on some subliminal interlaced level but where you feel that explanations are just beyond ones fingertips. There is a deeply enigmatic opening Kam Woo-sung staggers through an eerily lit forest to find dismembered bodies in a cabin, is pursued and staggers into an orange-lit road tunnel where he blurrily sees a mysterious figure emerge out of a door before being hit by a truck. Much of what happens subsequently could well be a deathdream being had as he is operated on following the accident. The film becomes highly confusing possibly deliberately so in trying to work out what is present and what is flashback. At times, we even get flashbacks within flashbacks within flashbacks.
Spider Forest is slow moving but does come to absorb one in its slow mystery, especially wondering about the source of the phone calls. There is a genuinely eerie story recounted by Suh Jung about the schoolboy visiting the girl who lived in the forest where the two of them watch from hiding as the mother has sex with a man, only for her to be badly beaten by the man and the blood to splatter on the wall behind which they hide. They flee and in a peculiar piece of synchronicity the boy falls and hits his head and then sees the eerie image of the girl floating up and away as he tries to hold onto her hand. This is peculiarly mirrored in the scenes where Kam Woo-sung is seen playing with dolls, making one of them float away while the other tries to hold its hand. These strange mirrorings play throughout the film.
The films structure becomes like a surreal mandala where we see one image from one aspect being reflected elsewhere. It is all rather intriguingly baffling. Suh Jung as the girl in the camera shop may not exist or else may be the girl who floated away in the story. Kam Woo-sung may have been the boy in the ghost story, but then appears to have been the person who lived in the cottage in the forest rather than the girl. [PLOT SPOILERS] He then later appears to be the one who travelled back in time to watch himself carry out the murders and be the stranger who pursued his self at the start. He is told to go to the door in the forest and go through to get all the answers and find why his memory is so confused. However, we never do get any answers. All that happens is that he goes through and becomes the stranger who emerged from the door in the tunnel at the start. We then cut to the surgery and are left with the impression that all the confusions are some kind of deathdream. The film ends without even letting us known whether Kam Woo-sung is dead or alive.
Director Song Il-gon also went onto make the non-genre Feathers in the Wind (2008) and Only You (2011). He returned to genre material with Magicians (2005), also a ghost story, which had the novelty of being shot in a single take.