Asian Auteur Park Chan-wook has made a career off of bestowing deranged and disturbing plots upon us often exploring taboo themes. If you have seen Oldboy, you haven't forgotten it. Stoker is his foray into American cinema and while its perversely creepy nature will turn some viewers off, those with an open-mind will be mesmerized. Stoker blends the trademark stunning imagery and cinematography of past Park Chan-wook films with an endlessly unnerving and unsettling atmosphere inspirationally drawn from the master of tension, Alfred Hitchcock. Stoker is one of the most twisted family dramas ever created and all aspects of filmmaking are on top notch display.
Mia Wasikowska plays an introverted and socially flawed 18 year old woman named India. On this 18th birthday her world is turned upside down after coming aware of her fathers' death in a tragic and fatal automobile accident. The wake brings forth numerous relatives, both familiar and new, but the mysterious Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) is here to stay despite India having never been aware of his existence. Charlie is soft-spoken and almost emotionless. He states he is staying to help India's mentally unstable mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) cope with the loss of her husband. India isn't buying it and rejects his seemingly good willed intentions at every turn.
It should be obvious that nothing is really what it seems. An incestuous affection for India develops by Charlie. People go missing. India deals with sexual harassment at school. Most importantly though, the atmosphere will unsettle to your core as you place the narrative puzzle pieces together. Stoker's script by Wentworth Miller may not be a masterpiece, but Park's masterful directing makes up for it in ways that propel Stoker into absolutely unforgettable territory. Various camera tricks are used from sweeping shots to long single takes to subtle imagery. There is a scene where India is brushing her mother's long flowing hair, and the camera zooms completely in allowing the shot to morph into a luscious field of grass in a hunting flashback between India and her father. Almost every scene of Stoker is overflowing with engaging and remarkable style that alleviates some of the minor frustrations with the script and early plot pacing.
Stoker isn't just a beautiful movie to look at though. Oozing style Park never forgets that his central goal is to tell a disturbing coming of age story featuring unsettling family drama. Attention to detail is necessary for a full comprehension but the feeling is immensely satisfying. Even if you usually come away befuddled from more abstract and artistic films, five minutes of internet research will connect the dots and give you a complete perspective on Stoker. Regardless, the film is so involving with its endless tension and surreal acting it's almost impossible to not be entertained. I only wish that the more cathartic scenes had more of an emotional impact within the moment. However, Mia Wasikowska gives a stunningly eerie Academy Award worthy performance that will continuously linger in your mind for a long time along with the entire film.
Clint Mansell (Requiem For A Dream) crafts a haunting soundtrack featuring beautiful piano pieces from Philip Glass containing dissonant notes where each tone lets loose awkward butterflies in your stomach. There is even a pianist duet between India and Charlie that is hypnotically inducing and a creepily representative scene of the films nature. Stoker's soundtrack also includes a few licensed songs that brilliantly complement the actions transpiring on screen. Overall, Stoker's soundtrack is legendary material.
Perverse sexual undertones, family dramatic mystery, coming of age themes, genetic commentary, and psychopathic tendencies all come together creating a truly special film that I will never forget. The script shortcomings are easily overlooked. Stoker is visually orgasmic and mentally stimulating on a disturbing level that I welcome. Stoker may not be my highest rated film of 2013, but it is undoubtedly the most unforgettable so far and I'm eagerly waiting to watch it again already.