Spider Forest (Geomi Sup) (2004)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Trailer-Shinobi, Koma, Brotherhood Of War,
|Year Of Production||2004|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Il-gon Song|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Korean dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||Unknown||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
When troubled television producer Kang (Woo-seong Kam) flees the scene of a grisly murder at an isolated backwoods cabin, he is struck down by a hit-and-run driver and ends up hospitalised in a comatose condition. Recovering, Kang has vague memories of a beautiful young woman, Min (Jung Suh) and some fragmented recollections involving his sleazy boss, a hardboiled detective, a childhood companion and a folkloric tale involving the spiders that live in the forest.
Although somewhat similar to Memento’s ambiguous and paranoid plot devices, the narrative of Spider Forest has a distinct voice of its own. The mythic-steeped mystery is intricate, almost poetic in design, evolving exponentially like a spider gently weaving its gossamer threads. As the web grows, Kang becomes more enmeshed in a microcosm filled with conflict, superstition and emotional allusion.
Underpinning the amnesiac plot is the melancholic, yet eerie sensual ambience and dark intrigue surrounding the cabin and forest. Their rotting boards and gnarled branches house thousands of spiders, all of which represent forgotten lost souls. Time is non-linear. The finely textured plot unfolds in layers, drawing on references from the past, present and future in no particular order.
The characters move within the arachnoid habitat with dreamy reverence, but then reach near hysteria when events plunge headlong into nightmare territory. During these violent moments their actions are savage, detached and reminiscent of the raw, blunt realism Takashi Miike honed to perfection in Ichi the Killer and Visitor Q. In one such sequence, the Detective, who incidentally is the only ‘grounding’ element in the film, is caught up in a sting operation that goes horribly wrong. The language is coarse and the ferocity of the violence is quite harrowing when contrasted with the genteel, romantic subtext of much of the film.
But what really makes the intense imagery so compelling is the unforeseen and mundane circumstances in which they often occur. A subtle, but nevertheless cringe-inducing scene takes place in a restaurant. An inebriated Kang deliberately bites the glass containing his drink. It breaks into razor-sharp shards and deeply cuts the inside of his mouth. He laughs, blood pouring from his lips, mocking his own actions. Another, albeit less subtle sequence, occurs in the cabin at some point in the past. A young daughter and her friend peer through a crack in the wall to spy on her mother having sex. The child warns her friend to close her eyes and cover her ears, but when the mother starts to scream, the children look into the room to discover something far more psychologically damaging taking place.
Spider Forest is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Shot on 35mm stock, the transfer often demonstrates a crisp, film-like quality that is disappointingly marred by a number of distracting film-to-video artefacts.
A thin veil of background noise is evident during brightly lit or daytime scenes. For example, the orange-lit tunnel at 7:48 and the wall of the hospital at 20:45 are “abuzz” with surface static.
Edge enhancement is a concern throughout. It’s dreadfully obvious around the detective’s face and head (19:05) and during the sequence where Kang and Min are suspended on a chair lift (80:48). The chair itself and their physical outlines stand out quite dramatically from the background. There are numerous other examples.
Mild aliasing is also a frequent problem. It’s mainly noticeable during daytime sequences, especially when the camera pans the forest.
A lot of the crucial action takes place at night. Fortunately, low level noise is not an issue as black levels remain deep and stable, while shadow detail is sharp and penetrating.
The transfer has an appealing blue-black tinge permeating the print during the night sequences, while during the day the organic colour palette is vibrant, natural and inviting.
The print is quite clean, with only the odd occasion where hair-line scratches and white speckling appear.
The English subtitles are presented as yellow text and are always easy to read against any coloured background. Importantly, the Korean dialogue appears to be well-summarised and translated to match the mood and tone.
There are two audio options - a Korean 5.1 or Korean DTS mix. The haunting violin score is dutifully served by the DTS mix. The opening scene in the dark forest where a young woman stands amid the eerie glow of moonlit branches is greatly enhanced by the immersive output from the centre and surround speakers. The sound of rustling leaves through the rear channels and rising violin crescendo that starts from the front and works its way to the back wonderfully frames the lonely figure.
Audio-spatial direction is right on the mark – a creaking door opening behind the characters emanates from the rear speakers (4:27) and the hit-and-run car accident (8:44) is a powerhouse of surround activity - the impact, screeching tyres and bass are channelled around the room.
The subwoofer kicks in to bookend a number of dramatic scenes, the most noticeable being during and after the accident.
I sampled the Dolby Digital 5.1 track and didn’t notice any significant differences other than the opening violin concerto, in particular, sounding slightly fuller during DTS playback.
|Surround Channel Use|
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that our Region 4 AV Channel edition includes a reversible cover slick. Simply turn it around and you have the front and back cover art unblemished by the ugly red and white OFLC ratings banner. A nice touch.
This featurette is essentially a series of behind-the-scenes set-up shots where the Director is briefing the actors before the final shoot. Although each participant is serious and focused on the task at-hand, they do allow themselves a few of moments of humour to lighten the mood.
Kam Woo-Sung (Kang) (6:32)
Handsome male lead Kam Woo-Sung talks about his experiences making the film. He offers an anecdote about how he likened his fear of being in the forest at night to the anxiety he felt when seeing the Blair Witch Project.
Suh Jung (Min Su-jin) (2:41)
Disarmingly pretty Suh Jung chats about the how great it was to work with the male cast. Her modesty speaks volumes about the status of women actors in Korea.
Jang Hyun-Sung (Detective Choi) (1:24)
A shy Jang Hyun-Sung briefly discusses his role and how the forest at night frightened him.
These four mainly dialogue driven deleted scenes are of interest because they offer some more history to Min and Kang’s romantic attachment. However, the scenes are quite pedestrian, corny and don’t marry well with the overall tone of the finished film.
Korean trailer (1:08)
Promotes Spider Forest as an all-out horror film.
Subtitled trailer (2:02)
Markets the film to western audiences as a sexy, romantic, mystery thriller.
A series of high quality stills presented within photo-frames.
Brotherhood of War (2:31)
Apart from a Spanish subtitle option and a 2.0 Korean surround sound mix, the Region 1 Tartan release is more or less identical in content to our own Region 4.
There is a Region 3 Special Edition 2-disc set available through Universal Pictures (Korea). It’s identical in content to our own release, but the bonus features are available on a second disc. If the video has been transferred at a higher bit-rate and there are no film-to-video artefacts like those found on our Region 4, then the Region 3 would be the version of choice. In terms of sound quality, I’m more than happy with the DTS mix on our Region 4, so in the absence of information regarding the picture quality of the Region 3 edition, our Region 4 appears to be the cheapest and best option.
|DVD||Yamaha DVR-S200 (it came free with the plasma), using S-Video output|
|Display||Yamaha 106cm Plasma. Calibrated with Sound & Home Theater Tune Up. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built into amplifier. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Amplification||get a marshall stack, and crank it up.|
|Speakers||2 x Bose Speakers and 4 NX-S200 Yamaha mini-speakers.|