I read that director Chan-wook Park decided to go into movies after seeing Hitchcock’s Vertigo. He grew up into becoming one of the most successful directors of horror movies in the Korean school of cinema and he now pays back his dept with Stoker – his first American film – which would not have made his master blush at all in my opinion.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0661791/

source http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0661791/

 

The story in Stoker has all basic ingredients of the classical horror movies.  We are in a small town and most of the action takes place in an isolated mansion. The father dies and the 18-year daughter has to deal with her personal trauma and with her mother who seems to be eager to forget as soon as possible and to start the next phase of her life. At the funeral the younger uncle shows up, an uncle the girl has never heard about before, who will stay in the house and take back a place left void by the father who disappeared. It sounds like a family drama, and up to a certain point it is, but the signs of incertitude are there from the beginning, as the descent into horror is not at all unexpected. Mother-to-daughter relations and the mix of grief and coming to age have seldom looked so frightening.

 

(video source Fresh Movie Trailers)

 

Acting plays a central role in the way Park builds his story, characters, and the relations between them. Each of the three lead characters can be considered a slight mis-casting, but this is intentional as none of the heroes really feels well into her or his own skin. Nicole Kidman plays another variant of her ‘beautiful mature lady in trouble’ type she specialized in for the last decade, with an extra touch of evil and despair. Matthew Goode is as disquieting as he is handsome. Mia Wasikowska is the one who steals the whole show, and as spectator I spent most of the film wondering who she really is – angel or daemon, victim or predator.

Chan-wook Park brings to this film the techniques and the atmosphere of the Korean thriller, but he transplants these well into an American story. He plays with the symbols of the American horror films tradition, even allowing himself a shower scene which quotes directly from Hitchcock (but Polanski’s influence is also present). I do not know what he exactly plans for the future and there are reasons of concern in my opinion because his genre of films is being under-appreciated by American serious movie goers and his style has an implicit and subtle violence which does not necessarily translate into enough blood on screen for success with the larger audiences. At some point in time he will need to invent something new to keep the interest alive, let us just hope that it will be at least as good as Stoker.