Stoker (2013)

“He used to say, sometimes you need to do something bad to stop you from doing something worse. “

★★★★

Director: Chan-wook Park
Writers: Wentworth Miller
Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode

If Alfred Hitchcock were alive today to see South Korean director Park Chan Wook’s first English language feature, Stoker, I think he would feel pretty chuffed. Maybe not impressed, but certainly chuffed. The reason for this is that while Stoker blends the Oldboy director’s stylish visual sensibility with a chilling coming-of-age tale, the plot involves too many familiar Hitchcockian conventions that corner Chan-wook Park’s visceral visual style into a more tame, and unoriginal picture.

When India Stoker (Wasikowska) turns 18, her father is killed in a tragic car accident. Her mother (Kidman) soothes her grief with the company of Uncle Charlie (Goode) whose darkly mysterious appearance at this time is both intriguing and disturbing to the broody India. As their relationship grows closer, India uncovers Uncle Charlie’s dark past and her own deep instinctive desires for murder.

Stoker treads the grey area of ambiguity in exploring good and evil with beautiful visual detail and excellent performances from familiar stars – Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, and Mia Wasikowska. It raises interesting ideas and themes about innate evil desires, enhanced by a slow burning sense of creepiness and intrigue, but it fails to be as emotionally compelling or thought-provoking as Chan-wook Park’s previous films. Stoker‘s plot may have twists and turns that are genuinely thrilling and visually evocative, but otherwise, it lacks a cohesion that would make the film gripping from beginning to end. It often feels like a stop and start operation that detaches Park from his usual concentrated creativity. Nevertheless, Stoker has Park’s stylistic panache, and it’s worth seeing the director handle a Western landscape and story.

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