Stoker 慾謀 / 私房嚇 스토커 (2013) – USA

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 6th March 2013
In cinemas everywhere from 28th February 2013

Directed by: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman

Also showing as part of Korean Film Festival in Australia KOFFIA 2013 in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne in August to September 2013.

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If there is one line to describe director Park Chan-wook’s Hollywood debut in “Stoker”, will be the film is constantly engaging, suitably intense, certainly different, always suspenseful and even stylishly directed, but it is not “Oldboy”. Then again, as a wise person once said, “what is.” It is safe to remark that Park is at home in this genre and there are few that can rival him in delivering a suspenseful thriller. Park uses the show not tell principle to almost perfection and his ability to disguise an already crowded genre cliche of mental health issues within thrillers is certainly admirable. The good news about “Stoker” is that it feels different from the normal and usual Hollywood production and that is refreshing to say the least. The audience can clearly sense from every little corners of the film, from the dim lighting, mostly setting within singular location and isolated characters that it is a Park Chan-wook’s production.

The film is constantly haunting and the atmosphere and the chilling vibe from the old mansion, reminds the audience of a haunted and horror film in the making. Park manages to maintain suspense incredibly well without giving too much away to keep the audience guessing and at the edge of their seats. “Stoker” is a psychological thriller and a bloody gore fest, but none of the brutal violence are distasteful as it is vital to the making of the story. Ultimately, Park is let down by a generic script that starts better than it ends.

Mia Wasikowska is simply amazing and captivating to watch. Her wandering eye combines well with her edgy and unconventional looks, which further adds suspense to an already mysterious atmosphere. She plays an interesting character who finds her way in life through brutal killings of animals and eventually humans. The nothing look on her face, when she brutally killed someone is startlingly cold and fascinating to witness. Matthew Goode gives a career defining performance as the mysterious uncle with a dark hidden past. Goode constantly smirks, sensually charming and ultimately making a layered character for the audience to follow. Goode is essentially the driving force of this film, as the audience are intrigued by what his motivations are. Nicole Kidman does well with her limited screen time, but her true intentions behind her fragile and strange behaviour is never truly realized.

All in all, “Stoker” on a technical level, the film is simply amazing to endure. From the framing of the park, the children playground, the freezer scene, the phone booth and the study room, every moment is tightly designed and intensely paced. One could not stop thinking, how much better “Stoker” can be, if only it can finish off what it started. It could have been a masterpiece, but yet the film ended up flawed. However, no matter what, with “Stoker” under his belt, I am eagerly anticipating for his next Hollywood affair. This is a fine debut for any first time Hollywood director. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 8/10

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