Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Jacki Weaver, Dermot Mulroney, Harmony Korine, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Brown
Written by: Wentworth Miller, Erin Cressida Wilson
Directed by: Park Chan-wook
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent and sexual content
Running Time: 99
Date: 15/03/2013

Stoker (2013)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Family That Slays Together

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Stoker is notable as the English-language debut of the celebrated Korean director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, etc.). Aside from a stylish obsession with violence, the new film has little in common with his prior works, which may lead to disappointment from die-hard fans. But cinema buffs coming in fresh will discover a fascinating thriller, expertly constructed to elicit darker emotions rather than simple spine-tingles.

On the occasion of the death of Richard Stoker, his teen daughter India (Mia Wasikowska) must begin adjusting to life without her beloved father. They had a special bond together, that India's mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) never shared. Now, things are thrown further off-balance by the sudden re-appearance of Richard's estranged brother, Charlie (Matthew Goode). Charlie begins subtly manipulating Evelyn, while keeping an eye on India. India begins to notice some of his odd behavior indicates a predilection for murder. But an even bigger shock is in store for India when she discovers that she, herself, might also share the same tendencies.

It borrows a few ideas from Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943), but quickly diverges from that movie into frightening new territory. Park's patient storytelling and odd imagery (a tiny spider, large round boulders, fancy shoes, a dried blood trail, etc.) contribute to a unique vision altogether different from the Master of Suspense. It's admirable how effortlessly Park adapts to English, fearlessly exploring his creepy, squirmy themes without compromise. He is a most welcome new addition to Hollywood.

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