July 19, 2013
An estranged family gathers for a funeral, and then the misery really begins, in this nail biting yarn from the award-winning director of “Old Boy.”
First off, this movie is not playing around. It was made by a master filmmaker who gets your immediate attention with enhanced visuals. You are knocked off balance right away by the credits (which run backwards). It is unnerving to say the least and lets you know that nothing is going to be typical.
The film is narrated by India. She is an unpopular girl at her local high school, thanks to her shy demeanor and tendency to rock outfits that went out of fashion around the time the Bronte sisters were writing. She tells us that her father has died and he was the only person who understood her. We are then treated to flashbacks of father and daughter hunting small birds.
The wake brings out lots of obscure family members that include an uncle named Charles that India has never met. Charles announces that he’s planning to stay for an undetermined amount of time, adding to the creep factor that is already in full bloom.
Uncle Charles manages to bedazzle India’s mother, Evelyn. Turns out she was excluded from India and Daddy’s hunting excursions. This developed into an overall pattern, so that the house is now home to a strained mother-daughter relationship which won’t get any better while Charles is around. Then an aunt shows up for supper and seems really surprised that Charles is present. She seems to know something about this dude but it obviously isn’t dinner conversation.
The aunt hurries off, never to be seen again (except by Charles who tracks her down and demonstrates that he can use a belt in ways that would humble a haberdasher and are not covered under the warranty). Charles begins to court mom while also showing up at India’s high school and cramping what’s left of her style. He appears to be stalking India, but that turns out to be a plus when he saves her from an unsavory high school senior who thinks that football tackles are a form of foreplay. Charles seems to really like torturing the student, but it isn’t for sure that India doesn’t get a kick out of it, too.
Things fall apart when Charles starts putting the moves on India. Mother decides it is time for an intervention, but she may be a little late. She may also be trying to save the wrong person. You won’t believe what happens next and that is all to the good, as horror movies tend to be predictable. This flick lives up to its beginning and takes you down some paths you didn’t even see on the map.
This is the first American film by Korean director Chan-wook Parl. Let’s hope he comes back again. He gives you a visual feats in every scene and manages to pay homage to Alfred Hitchcock (whose “Shadow of a Doubt” also dealt with a creepy uncle named Charles), while delivering a tale that is original and chockful of treats. Every shot is beautifully rendered and you will find yourself reaching for the pause button so you can feast on the visuals before he cuts to the next scene.
The little moments are huge here and my favorite was a creepy bit where the camera observed a spider scurrying up the heroine’s leg for a shower scene that goes way beyond what Hitchcock delivered in “Psycho.” Enjoy this one as much for the story as how well it is rendered.
Best line: “Sometimes you need to do something bad to stop yourself from doing something worse.”
2013, rated R.