Stoker Reviews

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Super Reviewer
August 31, 2013
Dark, twisted story. Not sure I got it all, but fascinating and beautifully filmed and acted. One to rewatch, I think!
Super Reviewer
September 25, 2013
Writen by Wentworth Miller
Mario M.
Super Reviewer
July 25, 2013
Park Chan-wook's ("Oldboy," "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance") latest film "Stoker," available on Blu-ray and streaming tomorrow, stands apart from his earlier work for a number of reasons. It's the Korean director's English language debut. It's the first time he's directed a film without co-writing' the film's coming from "Prison Break" star Wentworth Miller. But it's an indelibly Park Chan-wook film, full of ornate detail, vertiginous mise-en-scène and operatic verve.

On her eighteenth birthday, the cold and quiet India (Mia Wasikowska) must cope with the sudden death of her father and the unsettling appearance of her heretofore unknown Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), a figure of great charisma and boundless menace who moves in with India and her distant mother (Nicole Kidman). While Park has never been a subtle filmmaker, when working with Miller's symbolism- heavy script the film comes off as almost comically obvious at times. But once cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon's poetic imagery and Clint Mansell's swirling score have time to do their work, "Stoker's" baroque diorama becomes real and hypnotic.

The film only flirts with realism and isn't overly concerned with plot but from a perfectly realized early sequence where a birthday cake's flames are slowly extinguished under a hastily applied glass dome, it's clear that "Stoker" is a work of arch impressionism; and you're either along for the ride or you're not. The relationship between India and Charlie - a dance of barely restrained eroticism and familial concern - is as repulsive as it is compelling. A lesser director would have rendered their relationship, with its clumsy Freudian interplay, as crass and sleazy, but Park's restraint manages to give it a tantalizing ambiguity right until the end.

Wasikowska plays India's ambivalence about Charlie, her stifling small town and the real meaning of her father's death with a clear and light touch. She expresses a greater range than ever before, selling profound lust and sneering petulance with ease. And the clarity and wholeheartedness with which she embraces evil suggests a depth that will lead Wasikowska beyond scowling ingénue parts. By contrast, Nicole Kidman is severely limited by a lack of ability and surgical enhancement but is used well as a woman incapable of empathy. When expressing her deep desire for her daughter to suffer, Kidman is terrifying. Once again, she proves to be a better monster than compassionate human being. Matthew Goode is better here than he's ever been. He's sexiness is matched only by his calm viciousness and in the brief moments when he allows his mask of sanity to slip, rank among the finest that Park has ever filmed.

It'd be easy to dismiss "Stoker" as less than the sum of its influences. From an ominous shot of a police officer's mirrored sunglasses to key exposition delivered by laughably over-loud background dialogue to the crushingly obvious parallels to "Shadow of a Doubt," it's undeniable that Miller and Park owe a debt to Alfred Hitchcock. But it's not a sin to make one's reference points clear. Like Nicolas Refn's "Drive," the pleasures of the film don't come from spotting the bits of meticulously crafted homage but from new variations on older techniques and tropes. For example, Hitchcock would have never made a film about nascent female sexuality from a woman's perspective. Being conceptually thrilling and immaculately executed can be more important than originality.
Super Reviewer
April 1, 2013
Stoker is a visually sumptuous film with strong performances, but after a great set up the story ends up fizzling and disappointing leaving a bad aftertaste. I have not been a fan of Chan Wook Park's polarizing directorial style (being one of the only people who didn't think Oldboy was a masterpiece and just exploitive) and he certainly does not flinch in providing more provocative material in Stoker. This is not for the feint of heart and has some scenes that will turn off any casual viewer of cinema. They caught me off guard with one scene in particular that I don't want to spoil, but I was not expecting it at all and it involves Mia Wasikowska in the shower. She definitely gives a daring performance and was impressive. Matthew Goode does well also using his charm to hide his secrets that are teased throughout the film until the end. Nicole Kidman is the only one that is kind of just there as here role isn't as prominent. Unfortunately, after over an hour of them teasing tremendous potential in the story, the final act ends in disappointment. They did a great job of building it up, but it was also their Achilles heel. While not wholly satisfying, Stokers creepy atmosphere, strong visuals, solid performances, and unflinching direction keep it interesting enough to not be a waste of time, but it would have been recommendable with a stronger final act.
Super Reviewer
June 29, 2013
"Stoker" is a strange and twisted little family thriller that is elevated by it's director's ambitions.
Super Reviewer
½ July 23, 2013
There's a decent amount of substance to study in this effective exercise in atmosphere: too bad it's often dull.
Super Reviewer
½ July 12, 2013
Being one of the most unique films of 2013, "Stoker" is as messed up as it is a fantastic film, and my god is it fantastic. The stunning camerawork mixed with the mesmerizing attention to detail in the sound department of the film, make this one that I will remember forever. This film needs multiple viewing to take in the sheer oddness this film has surrounding it. The cast is terrific together, and the films plot really accents their performances, because I really felt like I was watching a documentary on psychopaths in certain moments. I really focussed on each characters eyes, because their emotion sent chills down my spine. After Richard Stoker passes away, his brother comes in to take care of his family and each scene that he is present in, even without knowing anything about him, is eerie and creepy to watch. "Stoker" is some of the best filmmaking I've seen in any American Film in recent years, the only complaint I have with the film is that the end seemed to move faster than the rest of the film. This is independent filmmaking at it's finest!
Super Reviewer
July 10, 2013
'Stoker'. A sinister, stylised belter from Park Chan-Wook whose ending's lack of consequence slightly disappoints.

The editing, direction and Mia Wasikowska all stand out. Clint Mansell, delightful as ever.
Super Reviewer
June 17, 2013
I didn't find it as great as Oldboy, but the way the story unfolds is a master stroke, that gets to its height with its ending. Based on how you interpret it (haven't let it bother me much), the end scene might feel forced for a final twist, but maybe that's inevitable to leave a lasting impact.

* Originally rated 3/5, but -1 for reasons best left to me. Nonetheless, it still stands recommended (for a single viewing0 purely on the basis of its plot and screenplay.
Super Reviewer
½ June 26, 2013
I recently read an article on aintitcool, where Harry Knowles said this is probably his favorite movie of 2013 so far. So, Emily and I had nothing else to watch so I figured I would give this a shot. This is Chan Wook Park's first English language movie. He directed the classic "Oldboy", so I was pretty intrigued. Well, I learned that Harry Knowles's taste in movies is a lot different than mine, because I thought this was pretty horrible. Actually one of the worst movies of 2013 so far. It's an artsy type thriller, that is just too slow and dull. Mia Wasikowska stars as India a young woman who just lost her father. Her mysterious uncle(Matthew Goode) then moves in with her and her mother(Nicole Kidman). Odd things begin to happen with the uncle and she finds herself very infatuated with him. There are a few moments of decent suspense, but most of the movie is quiet with shots of intense, yet boring, facial expressions. I was really hoping it would lead to something great, and the ending is pretty good, but it's just not worth the trip. I nodded off quite a bit and had to do a lot of rewinding. Emily passed out and she could care less, once again saying "Ev, you watch some weird ass movies." Maybe it just went over my head, or it's something I need to watch again when I'm more awake. Either way it just didn't work for me. I'm ok with a slow movie, if it has a good payoff or some great scenes throughout. Here, while there is some good, they just don't make up for it. 98 minutes here, feels like 138 minutes. It's just very tedious. Pass unless you need help sleeping.
Super Reviewer
June 24, 2013
This is a very odd film. Moody, uneasy and unsettling, the performances might just creep you out.
Super Reviewer
½ June 5, 2013
Considering that Park Chan-wook has crafted the Vengeance trilogy, films that have been pretty intense and violent, takes a different approach and helms this psychological horror film. Park is a fine filmmaker, and he can craft something very engaging. Although Stoker's script is a bit lacking, and it does show on-screen, Park's direction and great cast elevate the material in order to make something entertaining to watch. The pacing of the film is a bit slow, but in turn, the plot steadily builds up and unravels in a manner that you cannot tear yourself away from the screen. Park keeps the ball rolling due to creating a film with an uncomfortable atmosphere, which adds to the film's entertainment value. You never know how this one will turn out, and Stoker is an unnerving, yet engaging film experience that is directed by a filmmaker that is not afraid to get into the psychological aspects of it all. There are some really intense scenes here that stand out and make for the better moments of the film. Stoker is yet another fine film from Park, and I thoroughly enjoyed with a great cast, and good story, this one of the better Psychological horror thrillers in a while. The makes you feel uncomfortable, but it doesn't make you want to turn away due to the fact that after a while, the stories' low points improve and the performances here are effective to really the film experience that you are sure to enjoy if you're a fan of the genre. The film has its flaws, but due to Park's effective direction he is able to create something worthwhile and entertaining to watch. Stoker's script could have been touched upon a bit more, but overall, this is a fine film worth checking out.
Super Reviewer
½ May 10, 2013
An eerie but uninteresting movie thats leaves much to be desired. Fantastically acted, beautifully shot, but completely lost the Plot!
Super Reviewer
February 18, 2013
"Stoker" is a beautiful peculiarity, a gloriously messed-up piece of cinematic cynicism from the director of "Oldboy". It's most striking features are its transitions and its lead Mia Wasikowska, who is also able to transition into several different character types seamlessly (her appearance seems to change subtly with every shift). The other actors (even Kidman) are a bit stilted, and the plot sometimes borders on edgy for the sake of edginess, but "Stoker" revels in its strangeness, and I have to admire a movie that knows exactly what it is and rolls with it.
Super Reviewer
½ March 17, 2013
Most of Park Chan-Wook's brilliance comes from his delightfully dark atmosphere and great cinematography. He handles the thin script surprisingly well, and creates a moody and taut thriller.
Super Reviewer
March 30, 2013
Wasikowska's creepy, hardly bearable character is one the problems of this mis-structured thriller, which also attempts to extract tension from a mystery that we don't even know is there - and when it is finally revealed, everything that follows is made entirely predictable.
Super Reviewer
March 27, 2013
India Stoker's father dies on her 18th birthday, and the uncle she never knew she had shows up soon thereafter and installs himself in the lonely house she lives in with her attractive mother. This loopy, lurid and occasionally lovely melodrama/psychological thriller with Hollywood stars (Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman) is the first English language film from Chan-wook Park (OLDBOY). Parks' fans seem to be eating it up, but so far I like his Korean movies better; this one seems like a Korean shock film badly translated into an American idiom.
Super Reviewer
March 24, 2013
You might assume that Park Chan-wook's first English language film may something to do with Dracula, based off the title and that his feature delved into the vampiric, but it doesn't (although I wouldn't be surprised if the name "Stoker" was chosen because of what it conjures: macabre, morbid, gothic, dark, etc.). Instead, it's a psycho-sexual update on Hitch's terrific Shadow of a Doubt. I'm not too familiar with Park's infamous Korean films, but from what I understand he excels at visual style, dark storytelling and punishing violence. To that end, Stoker's violence and depravity seem a little toned down and less over the top in comparison.

The film focuses on the titular family of India, Evelyn, and Richard Stoker (Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, and Dermot Mulroney). When Richard dies in a mysterious car crash, his oddball daughter India begins to further distance herself from her estranged mother, Evelyn. After burying their patriarch, the family is visited by India's Uncle, Charlie (Matthew Goode, in hands down the best performance of his career). Charlie seems a little out there, and begins to form a sketchy relationship with India that suggests Uncle Charlie may desire more than family bonding.

To elaborate any more would spoil the film, but needless to say it's an interesting premise. The story unfolds very slowly, with few dramatic developments until deep into the second act, which contains much more wizz-bang than the somber and meticulously paced beginning. This isn't a bad thing at all, largely because the characters are so fascinating from the get-go that accompanying them while they go about their day to day lives is a pleasure. Even when the movie seems to be resting on its laurels early on, the performances are great all around (Goode, as previously mentioned, but also Wasikowska's performance as distant and on-edge India).

The lynchpin, though, is Park's direction. From the opening scene of fragmented shots with computer generated transitions that occur throughout the movie, Stoker drips with style, but thankfully not at the expense of substance, thanks Wentworth Miller's script (yep, the Prison Break guy) that tackles the deconstruction of the American family dynamic through the lens of a dark coming of age story. This film never has an ugly moment, and each shot oozes with creative shot compositions and visual flair. My personal favorite is an early scene in a basement involving a swinging light fixture (think Once upon a time in the West). The atmosphere, also, is well sustained throughout. Hopefully this is the start of what will be a long English language career for Park Chan-wook.
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