Viewed – 08 July 2013  Blu-ray

I was in two minds when sitting down to watch this.  Firstly feverishly excited as it marks the American / English-language debut of one of my favorite directors, namely Korean auteur Park Chan-wook.  He made for me one of the finest trilogy of movies I have experienced, the critically acclaimed cult thrillers known as The Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy For Mr Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance) and along with the unique vampire love story Thirst – he has impressed me time and again.  Now coming to that second thing, trepidation – I was nervous that something would be lost in translation in his swap to American mainstream cinema … would all the reasons I admire his talent, be cast aside in favor of the usual studio interference, with pretty much the only thing saying it was the same director, being his name on the credits?

stoker pic

Well rest assured, this is every bit as imaginative, eye-meltingly beautiful and intelligent as I could have hoped – if not more so.  Alice In Wonderland’s Mia Wasikowska plays India Stoker, a loner school kid mourning the recent death of her father when her uncle, who the family have had nothing to do with for years, makes an appearance and moves into the family home.  Soon he’s warming up to India’s mother (a stepford wife like Nicole Kidman) and trying to befriend India – who has her own suspicions on this new found uncle’s agenda.

From the off the photography and just sheer imagination with camera work, editing and scenery are eye catching and clever as hell.  Think perhaps Tim Burton meets Roman Polanski via David Lynch, and you may get an idea.  The movie is moody but has a cheeky personality, aware of its own style without overwhelming, and delivering three very different, very memorable performances.  Matthew Goode (Watchmen) is eerily charming as India’s uncle, and Kidman retains her usual sexiness whilst also exposing a wicked step mother alter-ego, meaning she really should play more villainous roles.  The star here though remains Wasikowska, who was perfect as Alice but seems ideally cast here as the darkly disturbed India … a performance that echoed early Winona Ryder for me.

But I wasn’t here for the cast … I was here for Park Chan-wook and along with frequent collaborator, cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung, he’s created a work of art … the look is both creepy and beautiful at the same time, and even on the backbone of a typical psychological thriller plot (from Prison Break’s Wentworth Miller) this is much more than the some of its parts.

The kind of movie you really need to sit down and wallow in, and above all else … enjoy.

Verdict  5 /5

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