Thursday, April 4, 2013


Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode in Chan-wook Park's disappointing Stoker
** out of ****
Chan-Wook Park’s first English Language film, Stoker, is a dark and violent psychological thriller that had my enthusiastic attention until I could tell it had nothing interesting in store for its conclusion. This is an eerie story that also takes place in its own world. It’s not so much a mutated reality, as it seems to self-consciously take place in the land of its genre. Like Tim Burton, Wes Anderson, and David Lynch films Stoker has a very stylized vision, selective in fashion to the point where one might wonder what the decade is, in the film.

It stars the excellent Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland and Jane Eyre) as an awkward and shy teenager whose father has just died. Living with her mother, played by Nicole Kidman, they are visited by a previously unknown uncle. The uncle is played by Matthew Goode, who like Ryan Gosling, has a talent for looking like a walking and smiling mannequin, so perfect looking, you wonder what in the world is hidden away in that head of his. The uncle’s vampiric presence has the young girl’s curiosity engaged and his past becomes the mystery of the film.

Park directed Oldboy, one of the darkest thrillers I’ve ever seen, which takes you on a twisted journey that contains the substance of Greek tragedy. Stoker has a screenplay that imitates many movies from the genre, especially Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, and does very little to put a spin on the ideas movie fans are used to. Written by Prison Break star Wentworth Miller and Erin Cressida Williams (Secretary), this movie plays with ideas of the killer beneath the most unlikely of characters, but it is the director with amazing framing and psychologically effective images of horror who keeps this movie afloat… until the vague material sinks it. 

This is one of many bad thrillers that are great at getting you involved in the hope that the revelations will have a profound impact, but only manage to underwhelm in the end, leaving you wishing there had been no answers to any of its questions.

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