Korean director Park Chan-wook, perhaps best known in the West for his “Vengeance” trilogy, makes his English-language debut with Stoker, from a 2010 “Black List” script by Wentworth Miller. The film plays out from the point of view of India Stoker (Mia Wasikowksa), a teenaged girl whose father dies suddenly, leaving her to grieve with an emotionally distant mother Evie (Nicole Kidman). An uncle she’s never met before (Matthew Goode) arrives shortly after, a man who India finds herself attracted to despite a suspicion of his motives. When his mysterious arrival coincides with a series of disappearances, India becomes determined to find out whatever secrets he might be hiding.
Park’s eye seems to capture the banal, the beautiful, and the grotesque all at once. The opening shots of the film are especially striking, taking in the large gothic landscape on the grounds of India’s father’s sprawling, ominous-looking estate. Another scene in, which India and her uncle play the piano together, is claustrophobic, disturbing, and strangely beautiful thanks to sumptuous cinematography by Chung Chung-hoon. The entire atmosphere of the piece seems to suggest a looming danger, the potential and aftermath of violence. And while the violence here is more understated than that of Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, it’s handled with an unflinching lens that simultaneously tantalizes and implicates the viewer.