Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Stoker (Rhoades)

“Stoker” Is One
Crazy Family

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

I’m reminded of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1943 psychological thriller “Shadow of a Doubt.” That’s the one where a young girl’s Uncle Charlie comes to visit, but as it turns out he’s a serial murderer. Joseph Cotton gave me goosebumps with his portrayal of suave, charming-but-deadly Charlie Oakley.
So you can imagine my déjà vu when I saw the previews of “Stoker,” the new psychological thriller directed by Park Chan-wook. He’s the South Korean director known for “Oldboy” and the “Vengeance” trilogy.
In “Stoker” -- now playing at the Tropical Cinema -- we meet India Stoker, an 18-year-old girl whose Uncle Charlie comes to visit after the death of her father.
India (played by Mia Wasikowska of “Alice in Wonderland) finds herself sucked down a rabbit hole of intrigue when the housekeeper and a great aunt go missing, and Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode of “Match Point”) seems just a bit too chummy with India’s unstable mother (Nicole Kidman of “Eyes Wide Shut” and “The Hours”).
“Stoker” has been called “a Hitchcockian gothic thriller.” However, unlike Hitchcock’s films, where good ultimately triumphs over evil, Chan-wook sees evil as dominant.
The body count is high in “Stoker,” and craziness is apparently genetic.
“You’re right,” says Park Chan-wook. “This film very much deals with the idea of where evil comes from -- whether it’s something you’re born with or something that’s developed over time. This is a film that poses these types of questions for audiences to think about. From a certain perspective, the audience might perceive the film as one where Uncle Charlie and India share some common traits in their DNA, which gives rise to evil. But in another perspective, this may not be the case.”
“In the flashback scenes that show Uncle Charlie as a child,” the director continues, “you can see that his older brother’s affection shifts to his new, younger brother, Jonathan, when he’s born. When we see that Charlie is no longer monopolizing on his older brother’s affection, he kills his baby brother. Audiences might think that this act is an act of pure evil, but it is not unmotivated. He certainly has motivation. It’s something that we can identify with, in that when we have younger siblings and see how affection from our parents or older siblings shifts toward a new member of the family, you can feel this certain sense of jealousy. I believe that this is a very universal emotion. However, in this film, that emotion is obviously exaggerated.”
After letting that thought sink in, he continues, “In the case of India, there are two perspectives to her character: whether evil is in her blood or whether evil is something that Uncle Charlie -- this outside factor -- comes in and develops within her. That is what this film explores.”
Fact is, Hitchcock would have enjoyed the speculation, even if his era in Hollywood required a differing conclusion.

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