Review: STOKER (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Review: STOKER (2013)

Now, my love, you're not suppose to play a piano with two middle fingers...
It may have been less edgy than his usual South Korean movies, Park Chan-Wook's first English-language debut in STOKER is perfectly creepy and mesmerizing psychological thriller, even though the story is somewhat lackluster.

Director Park Chan-Wook is highly regarded as one of top genre specialists in his native South Korea. He is, of course, best known for his internationally-acclaimed "Vengeance" trilogy (2002's SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE, 2003's OLDBOY and 2005's SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE). Die-hard fans of his works will be pleased to know that his first English-language debut in STOKER contains all of his trademark visual imagery that explores the dark side of human nature. However, it's quite a shame that his latest movie here is noticeably lackluster in term of its characters and plot execution.


When India Stoker's (Mia Wasikowska) beloved father, Richard (Delmot Mulroney) is killed in a freak car accident on her 18th birthday, she has to face living her life with her emotionally isolated mom, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman). One day, India is surprised to discover that she has a long-lost uncle she never knew about -- her father's younger brother named Charlie (Matthew Goode) who shows up unannounced during the reception. Apparently Charlie is an entrepreneur who travels a lot, and now he decides to stay put for a while with India and Evelyn in their beautiful country home. While Evelyn is pleased enough to have him around, India doesn't seems to trust him at all. She eventually grows more suspicious of his ulterior motive when Charlie begins seducing her mother. Things get progressively stranger when their housekeeper, Mrs. McGarrick (Phyllis Somerville) and their visiting aunt Aunt Gwendolyn (Jackie Weaver) goes missing which further raises India's doubt of Charlie's presence.

No doubt STOKER is beautifully atmospheric and yet eerie enough to keep you feeling intrigued all the time. Likewise, Park Chan-Wook's direction is spellbinding, even though die-hard fans might griped for the lack of shocking sex and violence that he always come to know for in most of his South Korean movies. While the violence presented in this movie are mostly offscreen, at least Park Chan-Wook manages to evoke a certain level of intensity to make you feel queasy. That's not all -- he and his cinematographer Chung-Chung Hoon perfectly framed every camera movements in the movie with such classy precision that it's nearly impossible to take your eyes off the screen. The movie is also highly notable for its great use of sound and lighting, which often enhanced with Clint Mansell's moody orchestral score. As for the cast, Mia Wasikowska's icy performance as the socially detached India is especially noteworthy. Same goes with Matthew Goode, who is perfectly cast as the handsome but mysterious Charlie. Nicole Kidman, who is no stranger for playing moody performances in the past, is equally compelling as Evelyn.

The Hitchcockian set-piece involving Aunt Gwendolyn and Charlie at a phone booth outside a motel; the stunning piano duel between India and Charlie that ends with a sexual tension; the intensely psychosexual shower scene that made India aroused after witnessing a murder scene; and of course the queasy finale involving the fate of Charlie and a sheriff in the later scene.

The visual might be pitch perfect, and all the cast delivers standout performances but the same cannot be said with Wentworth Miller's (yes, the one who is popularly known as Michael Schofield in TV's Prison Break) ambitious but heavily flawed screenplay Make no mistake, the script has all the intriguing concept concerning on twisted family, dark secret, brooding mystery and sexual awakening that involves India's coming-of-age tale. However, most of his story is stripped off with lack of emotional impact.

Darling, I just remember I booked an appointment with my hair stylist.

While STOKER definitely doesn't come close to some of Park Chan-Wook's great masterpiece he has directed before in his native country, it remains one of the most intriguing psychological thrillers ever made in a long while. What's more, this is the kind of movie that would make Alfred Hitchcock proud.

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