What happens when the director of the Vengeance trilogy (that culminated in the demented Oldboy, Korea, 2003) goes to Hollywood? Actually, not quite Hollywood as this is a Scott Bros. production (Tony’s last) and wears its indie sensibilities with its $15m budget. Park Chan-wook in America, certainly, but creating a particular Gothic world that is too uncomfortable for the mainstream.
What a cast; for the money or otherwise. I’ve despaired recently about Nicole Kidman, who seemed to have gotten lost in Hollywood, but she does a brilliantly brittle turn as the mother of the bullied, yet sinister, India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska – very good). Similarly excellent is Matthew Goode, all sinister charm, as Uncle Charlie who seems to have stepped out of Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943). Hitch visited small town America; Park visits the Gothic; the film’s title is a tribute to Bram.
Park certainly has an eye for composition and there are some stunning set ups and the cinematography, Chung Chung-hoon, is great. While there are some gut-wrenching moments, it’s not as visceral as Oldboy (well, not much is) and the horror is nicely balanced between shock and suspense.