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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.
Stoker poster detail

The Hollywood Reporter:

Park Chan-Wook leaves the expected streaks of blood across American screens in Stoker, his English-language debut about a young woman whose coming of age takes place among the corpses of family members and neighbors. Fans who have followed the Korean auteur since 2003's Oldboy will not be disappointed, but a high creep-out factor and top-drawer cast should attract genre fans who've never heard of him as well.


South Korean auteur Park Chan-wook's filmmaking always dances a fine line between sublime and absurd genre ingredients. "Stoker," his first American-set, English language picture, is no exception. It's tempting to resist describing the movie in terms of the cinematic traditions it calls to mind: Alfred Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt" meets "Heathers," Park's creepy tale of a peculiar family wrapped up in murderous antics continues the twisted pleasures that define the director's filmography.


I first noticed Mia Wasikowska's work when she appeared on "In Treatment," and the performance she gave on that show convinced me that she is a powerhouse, someone of uncommon natural talent.  Like any actor, she's only as good as the roles she's given, and since "In Treatment," she hasn't had the best run of material.  "Stoker" is thin in some ways, but taken almost as an expression of her character's inner life, it is often very compelling.  She is very good playing off of Matthew Goode, who is well-cast as Uncle Charlie.  There is something corrupt about Goode's good looks, something crazy just under the surface.  It worked for him when he played Ozymandias in "Watchmen," and he rips into his character here with a dedication that is impressive.

Kidman is less well-treated by the material and she seems somewhat stranded in the role.

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

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.