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Stoker - First English Language Film from Oldboy Director


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Over the past decade, director Chan-wook Park, has proved himself one of South Korea's great filmmakers and he, like a number of other of his countrymen, makes his English language debut next year.

Synopsis: After India’s (Wasikowska’s) father dies in an auto accident, her Uncle Charlie (Goode), who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her emotionally unstable mother (Kidman). Soon after his arrival, she comes to suspect this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives, but instead of feeling outrage or horror, this friendless girl becomes increasingly infatuated with him.

Here is the first footage from the film. Sadly, as it is from ET we also get an obtrusive voiceover from the presenter:


I assume a proper trailer will debut online quite soon.

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Excellent, when's it coming? And what happened to the remake of Oldboy with Cage?

It's being made by Spike Lee, with Josh Brolin in the lead role. Sharlto Copley is the villain. Finished filming a while ago as Brolin is already at work on Sin City 2.

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Well that was fun! If nothing else it's the most beautifully directed film I've seen in a long time. Also the audio is astonishing so big fuck you to the Odeon for ensuring it was out of synch. I think the tone it sets from the outset ultimately undoes any sense of tension which is a pity but it's definitely entertaining

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I liked it too. I did feel though that it was less than the sum of its parts. The direction was impressive, and there were some spectacular scenes. However the general plot was just a little too vanilla to make this a classic rather than just very good. Matthew Goode looked crazy handsome in this, and Kidman was looking good too.

I loved the 'duet' scene. As you said, the audio was great, and the music really made parts pop.

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Yes that was a particularly special scene

I am not really sure what kind of impact he was trying to make on the viewer. It was so darkly comic from the off and the audio so indulgent that the chance of a scare was almost zero. Even maybe a little bit of a homage to some classic horrors.

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I’ve noticed a recent personal trend of being out of step with public and critical opinion. It’s certainly not a case of becoming contrarian or even more difficult to please in my old age but I am finding it harder to enjoy some modern films in the way so many other people clearly are. Unfortunately, Chan-wook Park’s Stoker is another one to add to this growing list of recent disappointments.

Maybe my contrasting view this time around is a little less surprising as I have always had a volatile relationship with Park’s films of either utter devotion (Oldboy, Thirst etc.) or deep loathing (Lady Vengeance, I’m a Cyborg...). The key differentiating factor between these sets of films is a robust story. There are fascinating stories that can support the director’s ostentatious visual flourishes and there are those that simply become consumed by this domineering style and sadly Stoker neatly falls into this second category.

It begins promisingly enough with a startling credit sequence that is beautiful, enigmatic and also by far the best moment in the entire film. In a way the rest of the movie follows the lead of this arresting opening but what worked so well for the first two minutes simply wears threadbare thin after ninety more. For me this is a perfect case of a film that relies solely on its overripe aesthetic to try and shore up a seriously undercooked, and often laughably strained, script.

It’s certainly not a case that Park struggles to get his vision or message across in this his first English language feature. It is as visually beautiful as any of his native movies with sumptuous cinematography from regular collaborator, Chung-hoon Chung, and his usual strong compositions and virtuoso scene transitions. As a technical exercise the film is a triumph and that extends to the wonderful use of amplified sound and Clint Mansell’s evocative yet surprisingly subtle score.

My entire problem with the film comes down to the script. Park tries his best to give greater substance to the words on the page by overloading the film with some not so subtle symbolism but it comes across as forced and unconvincing. For a psychosexual thriller it feels bizarrely and disappointingly bland despite its visual extravagance. The staged surroundings are the perfect arena for a complicated, twisting relationship triangle of heightened emotion and intrigue yet it never quite comes alive. It occasionally splutters as if the story is going to become genuinely interesting yet the characters remain frustratingly simple whilst the majority of their dialogue is so ham-fisted or blunt it nearly always ruins the moment. The film does contain a blackly humorous streak but I was finding myself laughing at the film more than with it.

Stoker is a mishmash of on the nose references from Hitchcock to the Gothic masters yet the work it constantly reminded me of was the odd, pulpy and now largely forgotten Joseph Losey film, Secret Ceremony, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Mia Farrow and Robert Mitchum. Both films possess the same heightened reality, suffocating locations and troubled eroticism that is ignited by quasi-incestuous tension. Both films also feature trashy and trite scripts that are elevated by game performances and bravura filmmaking. Yet out of the two it is the scenery-chewing antics of Taylor, Farrow and Mitchum that proved the most engaging.

At least the spirited performances are superficially enjoyable. Nicole Kidman, in a far smaller role than I had expected, makes her painted fragility work well with the role whilst Mia Wasikowska once again shines with weak material. However, the real stand out is Matthew Goode as the mysterious Uncle Charlie, an impeccably dressed reptile who slithers his way into the Stoker household.

For me Stoker is a film of lush surface details and next to no real substance. As a collection of moving images it is pretty and diverting but its heart is starved of blood, an element, surprisingly enough, key to this story. However, please don’t let my words deter you from seeing the film as I have a feeling I will be in the minority once again.


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Just back from seeing this and in 100% agreement with Cookie. I kept waiting for the gear change. It felt like at any moment it was about to be let off the leash and become a whilrwind of insanity, but if anything it actually becomes more sedate as it progresses. And the last act moves at a complete crawl. I'm not necessarily the biggest fan anyway, Oldboy aside obviously, but the flaws the script here are just obvious.

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