Park Chan-wook makes his English-language directorial debut with Stoker, a beautifully twisted tale of murder that echoes Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. After India’s father dies, her Uncle Charlie, who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her unstable mother. She comes to suspect this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives and becomes increasingly infatuated with him.
Stoker is a fantastic English film debut from the South Korean director as he crafted a tension filled murder mystery with plenty Hitchcockian flair. Stoker is an old soul and a breath of fresh air as its story is told slowly and deliberately. It’s a slow-burn in every sense of the word but it doesn’t always feel like one because the film moves graciously from scene to scene. Some of the best horror films are of the slow-burn variety because if done right, they can be very rewarding – and Stoker is exactly that.
The film crawls along at a comfortable pace before finally taking a nasty turn where it crawls under your skin and stays there. Wentworth Miller, the architect behind the script has cited Bram Stoker’s Dracula as an influence and obvious source for the title of the film. While there’s no vampires or the sucking of any blood, it’s definitely heavy on the Gothic atmosphere so I’m assuming that’s where the initial vampire mix up came from when we first heard about the film. Stoker’s more obvious influence is Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, which has an Uncle Charlie of its own. It’s almost a remake of that film except this one is a much more dark and twisted take on the subject.
While all the actors did a fine job and were all strong enough to carry a scene on their own, the one who stood out the most was Uncle Charlie himself, Matthew Goode. He poured on the charm with a devilish grin. You wanted to trust him but you knew you couldn’t, which was truly his most terrifying characteristic. When everyone’s true colors are revealed and they are no longer wearing their fake smiles, it’s an amazing moment in the film and shows you just how powerful each of their performances are.
The thing about Stoker is this; it’s not some over-the-top horror flick that’s going to leave your jaw on the floor with its blood and gore. Most of the violence you see in the film is left more to your imagination as it happens off screen. It’s a visually stunning murder mystery led by some amazing performances. It’s a classic horror story told by a master filmmaker who weaves a slow burning tale deep into the skin of its audience. Supposedly Park Chan-wook intended Stoker to be the first of a trilogy and if this is a sign of things to come, then I’d say to buckle up kiddies because things are about to get nasty.