In the first English-language film from Thirst and Oldboy director Park Chan-wook, a young woman’s chilling relationship with her uncle leads her into adulthood — and a world of supernatural violence.Read…
In the first English-language film from Thirst and Oldboy director Park Chan-wook, a young woman’s chilling relationship with her uncle leads her into adulthood — and a world of supernatural violence.
[Note: Major plot spoilers for Stoker. Proceed with caution!]
Prior to the release of Park Chan-wook's Stoker, everyone on the interview circuit bent over backwards to assure audiences this wasn't a vampire movie, not supernatural in the least. Given that Park had tackled vampires with gusto in Thirst (and that the title of the movie was Stoker), the question seemed fair. Mystery solved: since every character in Stoker parades their designer duds mid-afternoon with no side effects and the movie is suitably bloodless, I suppose we can grant the point on Not Vampires.
But Stoker is absolutely a film about monsters and the supernatural, and how they're the most natural things in the world.
This lushly-filmed family Gothic is at its heart a film about its taciturn heroine, India, and every beautifully-framed shot is made in grim sympathy for what it sees as her inevitable and surreal journey into adulthood, one pair of saddle shoes at a time. For though no fangs ever manifest or wolfish claws appear, India's coming of age demands she become monstrous, to survive in a world this movie knows is monstrous.
It might be possible to approach the film as a mundane-secular thriller. Stoker pays deliberate homage to the setup and structure of Hitchcock's bad-family-apple dreadfest Shadow of a Doubt, and Stoker's plot, if sketched only by the major reveals (You mean her mysterious arriviste uncle has killed before? You mean he will again?) straddles a line between potboiler-noir and an artsy sweeps episode. It's a fun line – there's a certain amount of camp integral to horror – but there's nothing inherently supernatural here.
Except, then the film actually starts. The supernatural is so integral to the film that India gives us an introductory voiceover explicitly introducing her superhuman senses. Some of them play out in the plot – including one darkly-hilarious chiller involving sharp hearing and a mobile phone – but others merely shade India's character. She hears things others can't (vicious mourners at her father's funeral), sees things others can't (in still life class, she draws the unseen pattern inside the vase), underscoring Mia Wasikowska's sharp performance as a young woman who is, at the point at which we meet her, utterly isolated and unknown even to herself.
Enter Uncle Charlie. (Everyone who's seen Oldboy, you can start nodding sagely about the approaching incest.)