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Title :Stoker (2013)
Release :28 February 2013 (South Korea)
Genre :Drama, Thriller
Stars :Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode
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Stoker (2013) trailer
Stoker (2013) review
Nervous anticipation usually accompanies the English-language debut film of a prominent international director – the big business of American movie production has too often resulted in a compromised vision and desaturation of the idiosyncratic talents which gained the artist worldwide notice in the first place. Having made quite the international splash after Oldboy – the second of his “Vengeance Trilogy” –stood out from the Asian genre pack by telling its clever revenge tale with wild style flourishes, detonations of violence, and puzzle-piece narrative intrigue, Chan-wook Park made the high-concept, daring but unfocused features I’m a Cyborg and That’s OK (2006) and Thirst (2009) in his native South Korea. In light of these underwhelming efforts, perhaps now is the perfect time for “Director Park” (his affectionately reverent nickname on set) to pack up his operatic filmmaking techniques and taste for the macabre to bring us his first Hollywood production Stoker.
The Stoker family’s patriarch (Dermot Mulroney) has died under curious circumstances, leaving behind his virginal, morbid 17-year-old daughter India (Mia Wasikowska) and her bewitched, bitchy mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) in their New England manse to play out a relationship that is a hybrid of Shirley Jackson and V.C. Andrews. Spiders crawl along walls of Lynchian dark crimson draped by heavy black curtains in a feat of spook house art direction that gives the Stoker’s house of secrets a distinct dread of impending violence. India comes from a line of curious, gothic wisps from Lewis Carroll’s Alice to Delia in Beetlejuice; she’s bored and wants to scare herself and also find out what really happened to her father.That impending violence comes in the form of an “Uncle Charlie” (Matthew Goode) to rival Joseph Cotton’s bluebeard in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. In that 1943 classic, “Uncle Charlie” brings his cold brand of murder to the leafy peace of the suburbs with a particularly unnerving interest in his teenage niece. Stoker’s handsome, young “Uncle Charlie” has come home from extensive travels to assert himself as head of the household, seducing and scaring in equal measure with piercing eyes and icy command. India, at first repulsed, grows attracted to her uncle’s penchant for strangling interlopers with her father’s belt, opening a floodgate of Freudian interpretations that will make this a satisfying second viewing. Not much is left unrevealed about the mysterious boxes of saddle shoes India has received anonymously at every birthday or what is hiding in the Stoker’s dark, breathing cellar, but Park knows to leave just enough room for our own game-playing.Stoker flirts with being a cult classic but misses the mark by working too hard to explain itself and by tempering the more grotesque, drastic elements that the director would likely have not resisted in his homeland. I was surprised by how tamely Stoker plays its violent shock moments since Park has never shied from making an audience squirm, but plays up the psychological with rapturous sequences like an erotic piano duet between India and Charlie (or maybe just her idea of her sophisticated uncle) and a climactic scene between mother and daughter highlighting Park’s flair for tightly-confined domestic horror (check out the apartment scenes near the end of his odd vampire movie Thirst). Maybe the director who made his Oldboy leading man consume a live octopus on-screen for our gross-out pleasure has decided to take the gentler approach to gain a larger viewership.