After being blown away by Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengence, I was delighted to discover that director Park Chan-wook was making his Western debut. When I saw the trailer for Stoker, his latest feature, it was love at first sight. Wonderfully stylish, intriguing with an unmistakably sinister edge; I knew Chan-wook’s Stoker would be a marmite film in the mainstream world. Whenever I mention the Old Market Hall, I more than likely sound like a broken record. It reliably saves me from a world where The Hangover III, After Earth and The Fast and Furious franchise dominates screens; not even allowing an afternoon for something a little different. I found I could count on it once again to show the much anticipated Stoker; although I didn’t expect the film to polarise audiences outside of the multiplex.
When her father/best friend (Dermot Mulroney) dies in a tragic car accident, India (Mia Wasikowska) is understandably devastated. At his funeral, she meets Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), her father’s brother she didn’t know existed. Charlie soon moves in with India and her emotionally unstable mother, Evie (Nicole Kidman), filling the void her father has left. India soon suspects that the mysterious, charming Charlie has ulterior motives. Rather than feeling horrified or scared, India is instead captivated and infatuated by her newly discovered uncle and his uncertain ways.
Thankfully the trailer for Park Chan-wook’s Stoker didn’t disappoint. A beautiful piece of cinema packed with dense mystery, it’s a different sort of horror than we’re used to from this director. A quiet, cool thriller; Stoker is just as creepy as his Korean language counterparts and ever-so-slightly more pretentious. There’s no denying it is a gorgeous piece of cinema: Park Chan-wook subverts the standard framing rules, using stunning sweeping shots and expert transitions (the hair to grass shot is especially excellent).
Chan-wook’s cross-over to English language cinema is a resounding success. He’s expertly crafted a stylish film, as equally packed with symbolism and squirmy themes as his Vengeance Trilogy. And at times, Stoker is just as uncomfortable to watch as Oldboy although it is by no means as extreme. Other members of the audience clearly didn’t enjoy it as much as I did, but fans of the director will not be disappointed by its beauty or casting (Wasikowska finally has a meaty character to get her teeth in to). The only let down is that the script doesn’t pack as quite a dramatic punch as his earlier work, but the mysterious characters and foreboding imagery does a good job at making up for it.