'Stoker' Review: 'Oldboy' Director Makes Visually Stunning, Dramatically Drab U.S. Debut

In a big old house deep in the country, the Stoker family is weathering a storm of portents.

Dad just died in a puzzling automotive mishap, and now, with mom wandering around with a never-empty glass of wine spot-welded to her hand, daughter India, who just turned 18, is wondering about a mysterious “Uncle Charlie” who has suddenly appeared on the scene and announced he’ll be staying for a while. She’s never heard of this weird relative before -- what does he want? When we see a large spider creeping up India’s bare leg and proceeding up under her skirt, the question evaporates.

For his first venture into English-language filmmaking, South Korean writer-director Park Chan-wook deploys his gift for flamboyant imagery and eccentric audio effects in the service of a chilly Southern Gothic creepfest. Stoker is a great-looking movie (shot by Park’s ace cinematographer, Chung Chung-hoon) with an appropriately dark-and-stormy score (by Clint Mansell, Darren Aronofsky’s go-to composer). Its twisty plot might be said to be an homage to Alfred Hitchcock -- whose 1943 Shadow of a Doubt also featured a sinister Uncle Charlie -- but mainly the picture is a showcase for Park’s own distinctive talent, and, presumably, a token of his determination to crack the American market.

But the movie has some unfortunate problems. Park didn’t write the script this time out; the screenplay is by first-timer Wentworth Miller, and while it’s skillful in stacking up the story’s often-bloody surprises, it provides very little in the way of character development. Or, for that matter, characters.

Read the Full Review at Reason.com


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