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Sundance Review and Roundup: Park Chan-Wook's Creepy 'Stoker'

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 21, 2013 at 6:11PM

There's a risk every time a noted foreign filmmaker takes a stab at an English-language movie. Clearly, Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook ("Old Boy") knows his Hollywood history: he admits that Alfred Hitchcock not only inspired him to become a filmmaker but that "Psycho," "Shadow of a Doubt," and "The Trouble With Harry" creeped into archetypal thriller "Stoker," which is based on actor-writer Wentworth Miller's script.
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There's a risk every time a noted foreign filmmaker takes a stab at an English-language movie. Clearly, Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook ("Old Boy") knows his Hollywood history: he admits that Alfred Hitchcock not only inspired him to become a filmmaker but that "Psycho," "Shadow of a Doubt," and "The Trouble With Harry" creeped into archetypal thriller "Stoker," which is based on actor-writer Wentworth Miller's script.

Park chose his project cannily: "Stoker" is a simple, straightforwardly universal gothic fable that will play across many cultures. In his introduction in Park City Sunday, Park actually called this coming-of-age story a "fairy tale." Visually and aurally, in terms of the music, sound design and editing, the movie is gorgeous. But some of the iconography is too on-the-nose: saddle shoes, spike heels, insects etc.

The actors do their best with the material, especially Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska, who suddenly lose their husband and father (Dermot Mulroney) in a car accident and are both attracted to a mysterious Uncle (Matthew Goode) who materializes soon after their husband/father dies. But they don't have much to work with. The plot is all-too predictable.

It's tempting to wonder what the film would have been like with Colin Firth in the Uncle played by Goode, who makes a sexy but cardboard villain. He might have brought some depth; he may have figured out why he didn't want to do the role.

Fox Searchlight may be able to sell this high-end horror feature on its top flight elements, but I worry that's it's a 'tweener--not smart-house and not mainstream genre either. Critics may not be kind. See a Sundance sampling below.

This article is related to: Reviews, Sundance Film Festival, Stoker, Chan-wook Park, Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Nicole Kidman


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