Intricate and Mesmerizing (Spoilers)
Intricate and Mesmerizing
Despite the intricate complexities of the moments herein, this film can be summarized in one simple statement: None of these events ever took place.
In Hollywood, this type of thing is usually expressed very plainly (and pathetically) with the main character awakening in their bed at the end of the film. Spider Forest avoids this amateurism in that it slowly unravels the nature of its events throughout. Clues are given near the beginning, but their consequences are not made clear until later on. Interestingly, the consequences of every single clue converge on a single, inevitable conclusion: None of these events ever took place.
The old man in the hospital gives the protagonist a blue key which is used at the photoshop later on. In reality, there’s simply no way the old man could have known that the protagonist would need it.
When the protagonist tells his wife about his planecrash dream, she seriously asserts it to be reality, only to then later board the plane that kills her.
The protagonist plays with the dolls, showing the girl doll float away from the boy doll in a very specific way. Later on, he hears a story about a series of events that unfold the same exact way.
The protagonist and the children witness a murder with the same M.O. in identical circumstances.
The pictures that were developed (showing his wife eating ice cream), could never have actually been developed, since the wife took the camera on the plane with her when it crashed.
The entire story about the boy and girl is contradicted by the school teacher.
Three identical protagonists are present to witness the murder: the one who committed the murder, the one who directly witnessed it, and the one (bandaged up) who was watching the witness.
Both the photoshop girl and the detective disappear into thin air at the end of the tunnel.
The protagonist witnessed himself getting hit by a car.
The old man is replaced with a little boy at the start of the second cycle of near identical events, which automatically invalidates the usefulness of any scene in the entire film.
It becomes obvious to an astute viewer that every one of these clues contributes to the conclusion that none of these events ever took place. In most films there would exist a scene somewhere that represents an event that actually happened. If the lead character woke up in their bed, then the viewer knows that the events in the movie represent a dream. Spider Forest does not provide any such moments. It leaves the viewer to decide what the entire 120 minutes are referencing. Is it the cyclical trappings of a spirit in Spider Forest? Is it the perverted dreams concocted by a mental ward patient? Is it a book of fictional events written by an author? Who knows?
This state of affairs brings us to the primary flaw of Spider Forest, complete ambiguity. Any and all actual events occur offscreen, and are never referenced in the film itself. Most reviewers misunderstand this in that they attempt to extract reliable events from the film when none exist. The entire story of Spider Forest itself never really happened, so the nature of the film, when viewed panoramically, is completely enigmatic. That’s a pretty big plot hole to leave out there.
A previous IMDb reviewer claimed that Spider Forest is “What "Tale of Two Sisters" desperately *wanted* and utterly failed to be: Brilliant.” The problem with this statement, as I see it, is that ATOTS actually provides an objective basis for explanation, while Spider Forest does not. This reviewer also said that “the overall effect is to leave you in something of a daze - not of disgust at a puzzle that's insoluble by design.” Ironically, the entire basis of Spider Forest IS to be insoluble by design! Nothing actually happened! ATOTS, on the other hand, is DESIGNED to be solved by an astute viewer. I tell ya, that IMDb reviewer got it completely backwards.
In the end, Spider Forest is an enjoyable, well-made movie with an extreme (original) storytelling structure, but its enigmatic character casts its 120 minutes into complete ambiguity. The only thing the viewer knows for sure is that none of these events ever took place.