Ten Juicy Snippets From Advance Reviews of Park Chan-Wook’s “Stoker” That Make Us Wish It Opened Tonight!

ARRRGH! Everything we read about Park’s English-language début, Stoker,  drives us crazier and crazier to see it!  If you’re as hopped-up to see it as much as we have been (check out our Top Ten Most Anticipated of 2013 list here – so far, three of the ten that we got to see were worth the wait), just check out these ten “blurbs” taken from reviews for press/reviewers that got to see advance screenings.

Copyright Celebquote.com

What a warm, nurturing mother “Evie” (Nicole Kidman) seems to be to her daughter India. (Copyright Celebquote.com)

As of this writing, Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 100% Fresh Rating, though obviously this could change. I doubt it’s going to stay that high, but you don’t start out with 100% Fresh (especially from advanced screenings) then suddenly plummet down to 41% the week right before the movie opens, so things are looking up.
This writer has read exactly one mixed review so far*, but no bad ones (and we read a LOT). Check out what these (trusted) critics have to say– I credited them and linked when I could so you could read the entire review if you’d like to. I had to quit collecting snippets after ten, due to almost getting ready to drool on my MacBook in anticipation. Wish it was in theaters now BUT IT DOESN’T OPEN TILL MARCH FIRST! GRRARRRG–OK, deep breaths, calm down here, if we waited over six months for The ABCs of Death  and at least four months for Mama ,  we can do it for this movie (not that we have a choice). Speaking of which, hey, if you get a chance to see an advance screening or premiere, it sounds like Stoker  is worth the wait in line or other pains in the ass you would have to endure to catch the movie early. Plus, we’re super-envious of you!  Do you have an extra pass? Can we be your best-est friend 4-Ever?

Meanwhile, check these ten yummy appetizers out!

Screen shot 2013-02-06 at 6.38.32 AM

  • Working from a script by former Prison Break star Wentworth Miller, STOKER  feels like the work of someone intimately familiar with [that of]  Hitchcock’s  …although I wouldn’t go so far as to call this an all-out homage. The primary similarity is the young leading lady on the cusp of adulthood, mesmerized by her handsome, sophisticated, and murderous uncle….Mia Wasikowka’s India is far less a shrinking violet. Sometimes, the thing that’s most taboo and dangerous is the most attractive, and that’s an idea very much at the heart of STOKER.  (JoBlo.com, Movie News review by Chris Bumbray)
  • Park Chan-wook leaves the expected streaks of blood across American screens in Stoker,  his English-language début 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 also should attract genre fans who’ve never heard of him. (Hollywood Reporter, by John DeFore)
  • Tensions continue to rise, a disturbing love triangle begins to emerge, secrets are revealed to all and that’s when Stoker really goes into some wickedly weird and wonderfully twisted territory (and to say anything more would be giving away all the wonderful surprises director Park and screenwriter Miller have woven into this haunting coming of age tale) that should undoubtedly satisfy Park’s longtime fans out there who have been waiting patiently.   (‘TheHorrorChick’ for  Dread Central)
  •  In the many years that I have been coming to this Festival, not once have I ever seen a film that floored me enough to make me want to attend subsequent viewings.  I can say with certainty that Stoker  is to be the first to do this.  (www.heyuguys.co.uk/  Review by Ty Cooper )
  • Between the florid dialogue, gallows humor, all manner of sexual suggestion, Clint Mansell’s suitably peculiar score and another eye-catching collaboration with cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon, the world of “Stoker” is one of thoroughly, giddily heightened expression and tension… the result is a nervy, pervy Hitchcock riff in its own right.  (by William Goss  for Film.com)
  • I heard some people describe Stoker as a slow burn, but if you think this is a slow burn, then you must not understand much about behavior. So much happens in each scene, and by the time it explodes it’s glorious. Director Park Chan-wook, and it probably started with Wentworth Miller’s screenplay, crafts a fascinating study of how people behave. Mia cracks eggs to drown out funeral gossip, she draws a pattern in art class unphased by a harasser, rainwater drips on India’s shoes and forms a puddle, and did you notice how that naughty drawing paid off in the shower scene? (Reviewed by Fred Topel for CraveOnline)
  • [Devotees] will see something to relish in its mix of OTT violence and gallows humour: proof that Chan-wook’s appetite for disruption hasn’t been lost in translation. …Park Chan-wook brings operatic finesse to generic material in his tight-wound, wickedly weird US début. And Mia Wasikowska nails it. (Ken Harley, TotalFilm.com)
  • Start getting excited for an incredibly fun, yet perverse and, more importantly, powerful piece of work that awaits you come March 1, when this artful slice of insanity is unleashed upon screens worldwide. (Twitchfilm.com, reviewed by Sean Smithson)
  • …just because the film finds weight within its dramatic elements doesn’t mean horror fans will feel neglected. STOKER  has several disturbing scenes, one in particular for  featuring explicit violence that leads to one of the film’s most jaw-dropping revelations. (Fangoria.com – Ken Hanley)
  • Director Park also once again delivers a wonderfully mesmerizing visual masterpiece with cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon …[the reason] Stoker succeeds can be contributed to Park’s absolutely pristine attention to detail; from the stunning uses of lighting and costumes to the vivid and lush production design, every detail in the film felt purposeful and packed with emotion, demonstrating that Park’s impeccable attention to detail certainly hasn’t waned… Chung somehow manages to take even the simplest of shots – whether it be of a very awkward family dinner or blades of tall grass glistening in the glow of a setting sun, or even a small child making sand angels with an unusually devilish smile upon his face – and make them all feel like a works of art brought to life on the big screen. (The Horror Chick, Dreadcentral.com)

 

At least one clip from Stoker has been officially released, look for it to be posted here soon. And yup, it’s the monologue leading up to the currently notorious  “I can’t wait to see life tear you apart.” line from Kidman’s frost-bitten cu awful bitch of a mother to her daughter (Mia Wasikowska)**. That font color is supposed to represent icy-blue cold, by the way.

Screen shot 2013-02-09 at 4.20.49 AM

*We won’t name the reviewer, but we’re pretty sure he was expecting another Old Boy, and didn’t seem to care much for the “overly styled” cinematography. Yeah, yeah, whatever. Didn’t really dampen Mrs. Horror Boom’s enthusiasm too much.

**That font color is supposed to represent an icy-blue cold, by the way.

Contrary to this still from the movie, it’s not what it looks like; there are no ghostly vengeful female spirits – just human monsters.

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Make a wish

Cinderella (South Korea, 2006) – This Ain’t No Fairy Tale

 

Make a wishI have a list of “Top Ten Scariest Asian Movies” on IMDB. Cinderella (2006, directed by Man-dae Bong), may have been the weakest in my list; then I saw the skin-crawling Thai movie Coming Soon and decided it had earned a place. So I ended up bumping Cinderella, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to give this creepy Korean thriller its props. If you love K-Horror, this deserves a look. Yes, it has one or two elements that appear frequently in other Asian horror movies; the lead character finding out a horrible secret, a couple scary-ass ‘ghost girls’ that move/crab-crawl in a creepily unnatural manner, their long wet hair covering the dead white faces. In all fairness, I should point out that except in some extreme cases, I personally never get tired of this formula and the common images. Never gets any less scary, I cringe every time  I get the feeling one is about to pop out or swoop down. If I’m watching them after dark with all the lights off, sometimes I chicken out and hit ‘mute’ (but many times, still find myself sinking lower and lower, and in a couple of cases, peeking out from behind a pillow) . If you’re just completely goddamned sick of them and want something brand-new, perhaps you should give this one a pass. Either way, I advise watching the trailer for a good idea of the tone and art direction in the movie; there are few spoilers, which we horror fans always appreciate in a trailer.

Trust me, they had it coming!

The lead’s classmates are a bunch of mean-spirited little bitches! Trust me, they had this coming…

[30+ minutes of fruitless searching. on my Macbook Pro later] Guess what? I couldn’t find one subtitled in English! I had one carefully set away for this post, stored in more than one place, then boom, gone from my playlist.  Well, this way you’ll really be going in clean. Here’s. the poster art, thanks to our friends at Tartan Asia Extreme

Why the title? Don’t expect any glass slippers, but there is a connection. To tell you would be to give too much away, though…

I gave Cinderella seven out of ten stars rather than the nine to ten stars I traditionally give to perfect, borderline-soiling-yourself-in-utter-terror Asian horror masterpieces such as  Shutter and Shimizu’s Ju-on series. Cinderella begins with a hauntingly memorable pre-credits sequence. A dreamy image of slender candles being carefully lit on a child’s birthday cake; in the darkness, all you can see are what the warm candlelight reveals-a pair of female hands and the decorated cake. We see the hands gracefully lifting the cake and carrying it down a corridor, so dark that the cake nearly appears to be gently floating to its destination all on its own. Birthday candles on a cake, that’s a familiar, comforting, memory, right? The lilting music-box playing is… oh, I can’t do it justice right now, so just check out this teaser trailer (no English subtitles, but you’ll get the idea):

…and the fairy-tale spell is jarringly broken. That’s the kind of punch this movie is capable of packing. Some parts, especially the first act, suffer from pacing issues, dragging down the film (and viewer a bit). But get ready for the last act-it grabs your ankle like a cold

Yeah, I decided to go with the natural look after all.

Things I’ve Learned After it Was Too Late, Vol. 24: don’t work on the Cinderella gallery when you have a sinus infection that already hurts like hell.

hand from under your bed.  Through flashbacks, there’s a pretty classic, even Gothic, sick back story that stuck with me. There’s a couple hints, but it turns out to be way uglier (no pun intended-if you’ve seen the movie you’ll get the unintentional play on words) than anyone imagined. I also actually started talking back to the flat screen TV a couple times (if I’d seen it in a theater and said the same things at that volume, I would have been asked by an usher to calm down).  I’ve noticed that South Korean chillers like “A Tale of Two Sisters” or Korean crime-revenge thrillers like “I Saw the Devil” and “Memories of Murder” consistently get me so hooked in that (more than once) I almost blew off a deadline because I HAD to know what happened.

VERY bad sign after surgery in a K-horror movie

There’s no possible way that’s gonna end well…

I saw that many reviewers cited the movie for being ‘too melodramatic’ and ‘more like some soap opera’. I can see a base argument ( I guess) for ‘melodramatic’ ; fair enough, I suppose (though I personally don’t agree-how calm would you be if you walked in a room just as your daughter hanged herself –on her birthday?). However, a SOAP? Jesus, if so, I’d like to ask what the hell kind of fucked-up soaps YOU’VE been watching?*  Do they include images of someone trying to slice their own face into gory ribbons? The only thing on TV right now that is a ‘horror-drama’ and would even come close to this claim is American Horror Story. Actually, if you’re a big fan of the show AHS –like I am–you’ll probably enjoy this movie.

 I ended up giving it 7/10 rather than 10/10 for the following reasons: the lead character’s (who has at least graduated high school) mother doesn’t look a day over thirty. Tops. I know Asian women usually look fantastic for their age (Bai Ling was born in, I think, 1966 and still doesn’t have one line on her face) but here it’s sort of distracting (and kind of creepy if you do the math). The film suffered from some pacing issues as I mentioned above–it could have been tightened up by removing 10 minutes or so. Finally, the ending is too close to one of those, “uh…YOU decide how it ended!” types. With pretty solid storytelling throughout, it was slightly irritating to not have at least one major character’s fate resolved, instead of having the narrative just sort of flap away on slow wings. Yeah, Cinderella is no Tale of Two Sisters or The Eye (then again, nothing is) but if you’re looking for some Korean-style genre scares and a twist or two you didn’t see coming, there’s much worse ways (and much worse movies to watch, trust me) to spend 100 minutes. As long as you weren’t really planning on sleeping like a log that night…

Never mind, I'll come back later when you're in a better mood.

Bad body language for an Asian horror film…

*Well, Nip/Tuck did get messed up enough to have sponsors pull advertising towards the end, but that’d probably fall under FX Drama, not ‘night-time soap’. Oh hey–AHS is from the creators of Nip/Tuck. Suddenly, now it makes sense. I can’t believe I didn’t make the connection until now. I have a piece I wrote coming up called, “Ten F-cked Up Things That Happen on Nip/Tuck”, and it practically wrote itself, it could easily be twenty and I wouldn’t have to shake the tree at all.

This Ain't No Fairy Tale

 

Discovering The Host (Gwoemul)

…the memories are there, fresh as that night five years ago, when I forgot about everything that was not The Host for the two hours I watched, even the fact that I was sitting in a theater.

Five years ago on this very night*, I discovered the South Korean monster movie The Host. Five minutes ago, I accidentally deleted an elaborate, thoughtful post, because apparently I STILL haven’t learned my goddamned lesson about composing posts in RTF or MS Word format and ‘saving early and often’ before I post them.  I’ll add my post, because this is not only an amazing, flawless, highly entertaining horror movie, it has sentimental value for me on many different levels. For one, it led to me discovering that some of the finest films ever made were South Korean.

But enough of that for now, before I delete this too. Hey! Here’s the trailer!

Great Trailer- STILL Doesn’t Do the Movie Justice

Fun Fact:

Director Bong Joon-ho and the designer of the creature nicknamed it Steve Buscemi, based on the actor’s screen persona and the way he acted in the movie Fargo. ** (OK, the scene I linked to isn’t a great example, but I’ve seen that clip 100 times and it’ still gold every time.)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0468492/trivia?tab=tr&item  :

Not-So-Fun Fact:

The event described in the beginning of the film is based on an actual event. In February 2000 at a US military facility located in the center of Seoul, a US military civilian employee named Mr. McFarland was ordered to dispose of formaldehyde by dumping it into the sewer system that led to the Han River, despite the objection of a South Korean subordinate. The government attempted to prosecute Mr. McFarland in court, but the US military refused to hand over the custody of Mr. McFarland to the South Korean legal system. Later, a South Korean judge convicted Mr. McFarland in absentia. The public was enraged at the government’s inability to enforce its law on its own soil. In 2005, nearly five years after the original incident, Mr. McFarland was finally found guilty in a court in his presence. However, he never served the actual prison sentence, and there have been no sightings of a mutant creature in the Han River …yet.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0468492/trivia?tab=tr&item=tr0663591 :

Though one of my least favorite qualities in a person and especially in myself is cynicism, I actually figured something along these lines had happened before I discovered the actual facts. One of the main complaints on message boards about this movie (not a valid one, as far as I’m concerned, but it’s up there, sadly) is that it is “Anti-U.S. Military”. Riiight, because there’s certainly no history of the US Military (especially during the Bush administration) making cowboy mistakes that result in going to other countries and ruining them over mis-information that no-one bothered to do much research on, then making up some total bullshit fabricating information to save face.

…and that’s not the worst news.

More to come soon.  It’ll also help add a little flavor to this post when I dig up my copy of the movie to watch it, but as I said (or DID before the fucking post vanished, grrr), the memories are there, fresh as that night five years ago, when I forgot about everything that was notThe Host for the two hours I watched, even the fact that I was sitting in a theater.

Uh-oh.

*March 19, 2007 – which happened to be one of the absolute shittiest months of my life, other than the evening I watched this kick-ass movie.

**Oh, screw it. One of Buscemi’s funniest lines in the movie (and every line he had was funny) that I doubt other Fargo fans will mind watching again:

Seven South Korean Crime/Revenge Dramas in Seven Days

 

Also known as “the reason I’ve gone, what, a week without posting anything”.  This did not go quite as planned.  Here’s the first thing I learned: don’t watch seven brutal revenge/crime thrillers from South Korea in  seven days! Especially if you’re feeling even just a little off-kilter. In my case, I blew off several facts I’m pretty well aware of, through years of experience with them, mainly:

  • I have Seasonal Winter Depression (also known as SAD , standing for Season Affective Disorder).** .
  • They don’t get less depressing on repeated viewings
  • I had PMS, which tends to make me ‘moody’, but more than moody: tense and VERY jumpy
  • and finally,  that even ONE well-made South Korean gritty crime/revenge thriller is enough to make you bummed out enough all day …let alone doing something really stupid like watching I Saw the Devil and No Mercy back-to-back (yep, I was that stupid).

So hey! it’s winter and I’m not getting enough sleep, so now would be a perfect time for an in-depth writing project consisting of an a series of reviews and general observations. Plus there’s that whole ‘7 in 7 days’ thing goin’ on! That sounds easy enough!

I’m organizing my articles now, and I can post the in-depth pieces in seven days in a row after. I actually  learned other things (besides  think twice before you watch seven of the most brutal Korean crime flicks ever made all in a short period of time). I learned other things that will actually be interesting, mostly cultural. Since I was too busy listening to and thinking about The Ramones when our classes covered it, I accidentally learned some history and culture along the way after I started seriously watching Asian horror/thrillers. I even learned cultural differences between mostly South Korea, Japan, and Thailand.

I’ll rattle off the movies I plan on covering, in no particular order of importance (or brutality):

  • Chaser
  • I Saw the Devil
  • No Mercy
  • The Unjust
  • The Man from Nowhere
  • Bedevilled
  • Memories of Murder

Why no Chan-Wook Park films? Because my  husband thoughtfully bought me, as a surprise gift,  the “Vengence Box Set” which I think has six discs (Rick, can I marry you AGAIN?), and I plan on doing a piece on all three. A  loooong  project there (or at least a very long series of articles).

Only one of the above does NOT have an exceptionally dark ending which ends up with multiple character’s lives being destroyed.  OK, possibly two, but by the end of the rest of these movies, there’s really no winners among the characters here. Though if the audience counts, then we win for getting to see some of the most brilliant, suspenseful crime movies ever made! Now here’s some cool dialogue I hope you enjoy. I know I did!

the Man from Nowhere

Tae-Sik Cha: You live only for tomorrow.
Man-seok: What?
Tae-Sik Cha: The ones that live for tomorrow, get fucked by the ones living for today.
Man-seok: What are you babbling about?
Tae-Sik Cha: I only live for today. I’ll show you just how fucked up that can be.

I Saw the Devil

Kim Soo-hyeon: I will kill you when you are in the most pain. When you’re in the most pain, shivering out of fear, then I will kill you. That’s a real revenge. A real complete revenge.

So, it turns out that most of the movies I listed above HAVE no quotes on the IMDB. Good thing I wrote them down!

And finally, here’s the best trailer for I Saw the Devil. This is the trailer that had me searching online for a work print. There was only one on you tube, and it only had English subtitles for the first 10 minutes. After that, it was all in Korean, and I’m hardly fluent. I still watched it online, though, because I was so psyched about this movie I couldn’t wait 5 months to rent it on DVD. It was worth it, and because of the excellent storytelling you still get the general idea. Also, I got to see a couple scenes that aren’t on the DVD release, because they had to be trimmed to get the movie released AT ALL in South Korea.

This isn’t a Red Band trailer, but it is pretty intense. If you’ve been on the fence about seeing this movie because you’re worried about it being too violent, then here’s a good way to find out; if the trailer disturbs you, I highly recommend that you skip the movie. Up to you, everyone has their own level of what crosses the line for them. I wouldn’t blame you for avoiding the movie due to this trailer. However, I can’t help saying too bad, because you’re not just missing a jaw-dropping, carefully crafted revenge flick  from South Korea, you’ve simply missing one of the best modern crime thrillers ever made.

After I watch a couple more cartoons featuring Yosemite Sam (and maybe a repeat watch of 30 Minutes of Less),  to lighten up after OD’ing on brutal South Korean revenge movies, I’ll start posting about them!

**Even when everything in my life couldn’t be going better, and I’ve got nice happy positive vibes, I get SAD to some degree. “You’re just not getting enough light,” is usually the advice I got. Makes sense, okay. In college, in fact, I recall a therapist urging me to go get a special UV light. Unfortunately,  no-one bothered to mention the fact that you can’t use it just any time of the day. Furthermore (and we’re talking about people with normal sleep cycles who have coffee to get them going in the morning), back then at least, you needed to set your alarm an hour early, turn on the BRIGHT light, then sit there trying to stay awake for an hour. Even back then, I really, really hated mornings. I tried to avoid registering for any class starting before 9:30 AM. “You only can use it before the sun comes up in the morning and if you do it after dark, there’s a 99% chance it’ll cause insomnia,” my doctor (who waited way too long to convey this info) patiently explained.  Oh, and it “doesn’t really kick in for 3 months”.  At that rate, it’ll be time to set the clocks forward an hour and I’d feel way better regardless. This year, I think right around the time Spartacus: Vengeance wraps up the season (sniffle) is when it’ll kick in. So, this year hasn’t been too bad. And update-Daylight Savings starts this weekend. Yay.