Stoker

Stoker

Comparisons have already been made between Korean director Park Chan Wook’s (Oldboy) work and the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock, none more apparent that with his first English language Feature Stoker. With clear parallels between Hitch’s 1943 classic Shadow of a Doubt (both featuring an eerily charismatic Uncle Charlie who is not all he seems), Stoker contains the same brand of nail-biting suspense that would make its predecessor proud.

Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) plays India Stoker, a damaged girl who dotes on her father until his death on her eighteenth birthday. Her and her mother Evie’s relationship is strained to say the least and so when her mother invites her formerly unheard of Uncle Charlie to stay with them it is somewhat of a relief to have someone else to talk to. Set in an enormous house, there are distinct echoes of the Addams family, though with significantly more skeletons in the closet and as the title suggests Dracula has also had a big influence on the overall gothic style.

As Charlie settles into the family home sinister events begin to unravel with both mother and daughter become increasingly close to him. As India begins to find out more about her uncle’s motives, things kick into overdrive and get gloriously twisted. Though nowhere near as shocking as the likes of Oldboy, Chan-Wook has toned down the violence to adapt to a western audience and though the violence is toned down, the inherent seed of depravity is still thoroughly engrained.

stoker-miawasikowska

All three lead performances are unsettling in their own way and there is much emphasis on loaded glances and implications rather than long discussions. Not a single word in Wentworth Miller’s (Star of Prison Break) screenplay is wasted which compliments Chan-Wook’s precision filmmaking to a tee. Each shot is beautifully shot and there are some exquisitely creative transition shots, most notably Nicole Kidman hair transforming into a field of grass and the smoke ring from a birthday cake forming the title credits. Such creative nuances are fascinatingly inventive and as well as the visual payoff, they also heighten the eerie tone that permeates the production.

As India Stoker, Mia Wasikowska is a far more deranged Alice, instead of being repulsed by what she finds out about her uncle, she becomes more drawn to him. Her frosty teenager with a fiery underlying passion is one of her finest performances to date and Matthew good just oozes menacing charm as Charlie. Jackie Weaver also makes a brief but memorable performance and in a film so reliant on character development, the cast deliver in spades.

 

Verdict

An impressive foray into English language filmmaking from Chan Wook-Park;  The Korean director’s eccentric creativity blends together with western influence to create this wonderfully murky tale of twisted emotions and the darker side of human nature.

****

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Comments
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