There's a Hitch in Park Chan-wook creepy thriller

Posted: March 15, 2013

"STOKER" isn't a stinker, but it falls well short of the neo-Hitchcock extravaganza it aims to be.

There is certainly no shortage of Hitch references - uncles named Charlie, portentously posed stuffed animals, sexual train metaphors, corpses in the basement.

Atop the basement is the home of the bizarro Stoker family. Inside, a morbid teen (Mia Wasikowska) grieves floridly for her deceased father, clashes with her mother (Nicole Kidman) and keeps a suspicious eye on her creepy visiting uncle (Matthew Goode), who's also being monitored by another relative (Jacki Weaver).

Horrible things happen, but in order to believe in the horror you have to believe in the family, and this one never registers. They're nominally American but populated by so many accent-swallowing Aussies and Brits that vagueness sets it.

Of course, you couldn't get more British than Hitchcock, and his outside-looking-in perspective helped give his Hollywood movies their observational, voyeuristic pull. But he had such a great knack for resonant American archetypes, and it was such great fun to watch him peeling back layers to find something disturbing underneath.

The kinky stuff in "Stoker" is way too close to the surface, too guessable, too obvious. The perversity of Hitchcock was largely implied. This one, directed by Korean cult fave Park Chan-wook ("Oldboy"), has his more garish flair.

This new, unimproved version makes everything dully explicit - the connection between sexual and homicidal impulses is oafishly literal. (And wait until you see the director's spin on the shower scene.)

Then there's Kidman, surely the strangest creature in modern cinema, recently seen doing a '60s sexpot impersonation in "The Paperboy." It's like she can't stop. Here, her breathy line readings, tousled hair and parted lips are borderline camp.

Wasikowska does her impression of a morose teenager, but she's in her mid-twenties now and looks a little ridiculous at the local high school.

The real star here is Chan-wook, whose flamboyant camera moves, compositions and processed shots will keep die-hard fans engaged, to a point.


Blog: philly.com/KeepItReel

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