DIR: Chan-wook Park • WRI: Wentworth Miller, Erin Cressida Wilson • PRO: Michael Costigan, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott • DOP: Chung-hoon Chung • ED: Nicolas De Toth • DES: Thérèse DePrez • CAST: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode
Like many J-Horror and Hong Kong action directors past, it was inevitable that several of the talented and successful Korean Wave directors would eventually emigrate to Hollywood. It makes sense: that is where the money is, and there’s already a cult audience in English-speaking territories. Unfortunately, as has been proven by the likes of John Woo and Hideo Nakata, increased resources do not always directly equate to artistic triumphs. No matter: two cult Koreans have decided to give it a go regardless. The subversive genre master Kim Jee-woon made the transition only a few weeks ago withThe Last Stand – generally regarded as a decent enough effort but a far cry from the bold and provocative likes of I Saw the Devil or A Tale of Two Sisters. Can Park Chan-wook – director of the beloved Vengeance Trilogy and Thirst – do any better with his English language debut Stoker?
Breathe a sigh of relief, Oldboy fans! While it’s questionable whether Stoker will be quite as warmly received as his previous work, Park has ensured he’s hit Hollywood soil at a sprint. It becomes quickly apparent that stylistically at least this is a film every bit as demented, eccentric and intoxicating as his native-language fare. Stoker is a film that builds its creepy, intense atmosphere around boldly cinematic language. Chan-wook has made the wise decision to bring his frequent cinematography collaborator Chung-hoon Chung along for the ride, and together they record a huge amount of rich images. Consistently offbeat framing choices and distinctive lighting perfectly suit the film’s strange goings-on. Added to this is the visceral editing that allows the already powerful images to truly resonate. This is perhaps the most stunningly presented mains
Lucky the film’s style is so enchanting, as the director is working with a script (written, somewhat bizarrely, by the Prison Break lead actor Wentworth Miller) that necessitates such an imaginative presentation. The title refers to the Stoker family, particularly teenage India (an excellent Mia Wasikowska). After her father dies, she’s not left alone with her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) for too long before long lost uncle Charles (Matthew Goode) comes to stay – in fact, he doesn’t even leave after the funeral. Evelyn is welcoming of such a charming male presence, but India is immediately less fond of her mysterious uncle. Suspicions are further raised following a brief visit by aunt Gwendolyn (JackiWeaver) who is visibly not too happy about Charles’ sudden reappearance. It is clear all is not as it seems.
For the first hour, this is all perfectly serviceable stuff: it’s weird, disturbing, darkly
Luckily, even as the script falters, Chan-wook gives it his all, and the film is consistently imaginatively
18 (see IFCO website for details)
Stoker is released on 1st March 2013