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SFF’13 Movie Review: “Stoker”

January 29, 2013

Screen shot 2013-01-29 at 9.39.16 AMOh man! OH MAN! Was this an awesome movie or what?! Chan-woo Park, the South Korean filmmaker mastermind behind the vengeance trilogy (“Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance”, “Oldboy”, and “Sympathy for Mrs. Vengeance”) marks his American debut in this darkly twisted Hitchcockian horror thriller about a family that brings us the definition of ‘fucked up’ to light. Park brings his own unique sensibilities from his previous works, with the help of his long time collaborating cinematographer, Chung-woo Chung, while at the same time tackling inspirational styles of Polanski and Hitchcock.

India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) was not prepared to lose her father and best friend for life Richard (Dermot Mulroney) in a tragic auto accident. The solitude of her woodsy family estate, the peace of her tranquil town, and the unspoken somberness of her home life are suddenly upended by not only this mysterious accident, but by the sudden arrival of her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), whom she never knew existed. When Charlie moves in with her and her emotionally unstable mother Evie (Nicole Kidman), India thinks the void left by her father’s death is finally being filled by his closet bloodline. Soon after his arrival, India comes to suspect that this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives. Yet instead of feeling outrage or horror, this friendless young woman becomes increasingly infatuated with Uncle Charlie, dangerously infatuated…

This movie finds an equal balance of  style and substance, that’s what I love most about Parks work. His movies become these visual odysseys that play into the theme and narrative of the entire film. The violence in his movies can be extreme and very excessive, but for the importance of the films overall narrative, it’s a necessity. Violence here triggers our characters dark paths they take, Uncle Charlie’s acts are based on sibling rivalry of the worst kind. Where it takes him throughout the film are some pretty nasty, not mention creepy turns. Which is funny, since the bizarre relationship between he and India shouldn’t really work, but they’re these to kindred spirits who share a lot in common. Both of whom are considered rejects by the world, yet the one person they’re able to confine with was Richard.

Screen shot 2013-01-29 at 9.38.55 AMVisually though, this movie is a miracle of modern day pulp cinema art, Park I feel accomplishes more than Polanski could ever do today in his prime, because he knows how to bring this balance. There are these hypnotic enduced sequences of transitions and scene morphs that somewhat come out of nowhere, yet it speaks to us in a provocative manner. Not to give any major spoilers to the films plot, I will say that my favorite sequence is the hair brush scene between India & Evie, it was flawless and down right perfection. Now while the movie does come off at first as a inspirational take on Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt” the only real connection would be the name Charlie for Uncle Charlie, “Stoker” finds it’s own voice and it’s own methods of madness. Park stated in a Q/A that he wasn’t intending to make a Hitchcock film, but after watching the movie from start to finish he can see that the casting of Matthew Goode, who steals every scene, comes off as a very Anthony Perkins “Psycho” gentleman.

When it comes down to it, “Stoker” is lovely puzzle of horror, do most consider it a horror film? I would, it’s scary in a sense that this Uncle Charlie could be very unstable and not knowing what could happen next can be horrifying. The imagery itself can be horrifying. Literary horror references, symbolism, clues, whatever you like, you will find yourself caught up in all of this trying to figure out who or what anyone is intending to do to with who in “Stoker”, and that’s where a lot of the fun comes into play.

GRADE: A

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