Stoker (Park Chan-wook, 2013)

What's it about? When her beloved father dies in a car crash, teenager India Stoker (Mia Wasikowski) is left rattling round the old family house with her distant mother (Nicole Kidman) for company. Their uneasy relationship is not helped when her suave Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) turns up to stay and stirs the emotions of both mother and daughter. But is he all that he seems?

Is it any good? I enjoyed this film very much. The story itself is not up to much - in the wrong hands it could easily have ended up as a bottom-shelf mash-up of Carrie and Hamlet. But in the skilled hands of Park, the style more than makes up for the substance, as he transforms a rather shaggy-dog tale into a sumptuous Gothic melodrama, dripping with symbolism as he explores India's sensual and sexual awakening, against the shlocky backdrop of a murder-mystery. It ain't exactly subtle at times, but it is beautifully assembled, with real craftmanship in the use (and re-use) of imagery and sound throughout to create an effectively dark and grim fairy-tale atmosphere. The mannered, slightly unreal performances suit the off-kilter mood of the tale, with Goode looking literally like Jamie Redknapp at times, whilst Wasikowski effectively channels the dark desires within the sulky teenager as she comes of age. Shadow of a Pout, if you like. (That's film geek Comedy Gold right there, folks). It's likely to wrong-foot those who have seen the trailer and are expecting a standard horror-thriller, but everyone else will find a slightly odd, but pleasingly different and baroque spin on some familiar material.

I don't trust you. What do others think? This was much anticipated English-language debut of the South Korean Park, who had previously delivered the highly regarded Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance). For the most part, fans of those films were happy to see that Hollywood hasn't dulled Park's dark sensibilities and artistic eye, even if this isn't quite as accomplished as those films. More surprising was the revelation that Wentworth Miller wrote the script. Who? You know, that pretty bloke Michael out of TV series Prison Break that covered himself in tattoos in an effort to free his dumber-than-a-bag-of-hammers brother from prison. (He wasn't worth it, Michael!). Drawing on inspiration from Hitchcock (most obviously Shadow of a Doubt, but also Psycho and others) and, to a lesser extent, Dracula (hence the film's title), Miller has done well here, even though he can thank Park for camouflaging the sillier and more formulaic elements of his script. Audiences haven't quite taken to it (more of that below) and it's likely to lead to some disagreement between those who think it's good (they're right) and those who think it's bollocks (they're wrong). 

Anything else I should know? So I turned up to my local (cinema, not pub) last night to see Stoker and was directed to the 250-seater Screen 1. Guess how many people were there to see the film? Go on, guess. That's right. One. Uno. Ein. One to the power of one. Me. Perfect. Felt like that scary hypnotism scene with Kevin Bacon in Stir of Echoes. Speaking of which, I also seen that EE ad starring Bacon as 5 of his characters interacting with each other, which is as funny a thing as I've seen recently in the cinema. I laughed out loud and laughing alone in a dark empty cinema isn't mad at all. No, I don't think so, and neither do I.

What does the Fonz think? So it's a bit like Twilight?

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