In the South Korean directors first English language film, Park Chan Wook intricately delves into the dark secrets behind the closed doors of high-society. From the title, one may suspect a modern take on the classic vampire story especially when considering Wook’s previous venture into this territory with 2009’s Thirst, but the only link appears to be an oppressive, gothic mood.
Instead Stoker offers a morbidly dark but beautifully realised coming-of-age tale from a director at the top of his game.
The script, penned by Wentworth Miller (Prison Break) introduces us to India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska), wealthy daughter to Evie (Nicole Kidman) and her recently deceased father (Dermot Mulroney). At her father’s wake India is introduced to her uncle Charlie, portrayed with unsettlingly subdued charm by Matthew Goode, who insists upon temporarily moving in to help out. India and her strong acuteness to the senses is suspicious of uncle Charlie and his increasing affections towards Evie , yet her investigations into her family lead to a chilling journey of self discovery.
Every frame of Stoker has been expertly crafted to amplify India’s heightened perceptions of her world. The uncomfortable close-ups of a spider at her feet or the transitions between the brushing of hair to the swaying of grass give insight into the sensitivity of this young girl finding her place in the world. Stoker could arguably work as a silent masterpiece but this would be denying ourselves of the meticulous sound design of the film. As sublime and perfectly composed the imagery is, Chuck Michaels sound design in my opinion defines Stoker. The first lines we hear are “My ears hear what others cannot hear.” and this is tastefully elaborated throughout. Tiny sounds are amplified above typical foley giving a curious air to the film but also expanding upon the films themes of discovery and looking beneath the surface of things.
Whilst Stoker lacks the fury of Wook’s classic Oldboy, it retains the stylish depictions of dread and violence ultimately rendering the film a horror but not in the way you would expect. I suppose that makes it all the more horrifying.
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