60 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2013
Stoker is the type of film you don't see very often. It has a small cast with huge star power, a brilliant script, expertly crafted design in both set and costume, and a truly fascinating story. The film is told less through dialogue and more through action, facial expression, and the imagery of a scene. Stoker doesn't spoon-feed its audience. It expects them to be attentive and alert, ready to come to their own conclusions.
As a horror film it is strangely elegant. As a romance film it is quite disturbing. As a coming-of-age film, it is simply chilling!
Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, and Mia Wasikowska all provide some wonderful acting here. Kidman's talent is to be expected, but Goode and Wasikowska are especially impressive. Matthew Goode is nearly unrecognizable in his emotions on display here and Mia Wasikowska completely owns the role. Its hard to take your eyes off these characters.
The elegance of the set and costume design is surprising, giving the film an unusual style; the shifts in tone contrasted with the various designs often times creates a sense of disorientation yet overflows with beauty. The camera dances in expertly crafted movements, which is never a distraction, giving the film another layer of polish.
Music and sound design is expertly crafted as well. Classical piano and strings fill the score, while the sounds of the Stoker House are startlingly clear (due to a character's ability to hear extremely well). The sound of India cracking an egg, for example, will surprise many viewers. She is in-tune with the world around her, and the sound design helps create this illusion flawlessly.
This truly is one of the more interesting films of the past few years, one which cinephiles will eat up and more casual viewers should be intrigued by. Film: 4.5/5 STARS
The blu-ray's video quality is superb. Closeups are stunning and the cinematography is gorgeous, presented neatly in 1080pHD. Colors burst and black levels are excellent. Video: 4.5/5 STARS
Audio is a real highlight here. Like I said, Stoker sounds great. The music, the sound effects, its all captured well on the blu-ray. Dialogue is easy to hear as it moves around the sound-stage. Audio: 5/5 STARS
Extras include Deleted Scenes, Making Of videos, Photo galleries, and more. While most of the extra material is nice to watch, it doesn't spoon-feed the audience more answers and leaves the film's ambiguity intact. There isn't a commentary track. Extras: 3.5/5 STARS
Overall: 4.5/5 STARS. Stoker is a dark coming-of-age-horror-romance-mystery done very well and it has been given a wonderful blu-ray release.
Rating: R. A few scenes of disturbing violence, some shown, some implied, will disturb some viewers. Brief graphic sexual content in one scene is rather disturbing. Blood in a few scenes. Name-calling/vulgar insults might upset some viewers. Ages 17 and up.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
I'm pretty sure Alfred Hitchcock* would love this creepy film about the survivors of a family headed by Richard Stoker (Dermot Mulroney in flashback scenes) recently killed in a car crash. His surviving wife, alcoholic Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) and their withdrawn teenage daughter India (Mia Wasikowska) are soon joined by a mysterious, and heretofore unknown, brother (Matthew Goode). Brother Charlie's arrival is a shock to everyone including the family's long time housekeeper (Phyllis Somerville) and the brothers' aunt (Jacki Weaver).
Charlie's behavior is pleasant, proper and formal but at the same time, the way the guy focuses on people and things will give you the heebie jeebies. He reminds me of Norman Bates. Charlie is 9 years younger than his brother and no one has ever talked about him. In a couple scenes, Charlie who sees himself as a pretty good cook, presents dinner to India and Evie but doesn't eat himself. What is this guy, a vampire? (I wonder if the title suggests a reference to Bram Stoker)
Korean director Chan-wook Park has a good handle on this film, given that the premise is a bit ridiculous. It has some extreme sexual elements to it, but never goes too far...well except for Charlie's longing looks at his niece. Charlie originally uses his considerable charms on Evie which is disturbing enough, but it is clear his primary focus is elsewhere and those who get in his way will have a price to pay. Goode is very good in this role.
Equally noteworthy is Wasikowska who classmates call "Stroker" for no reason other than to torment her. She stays within herself and is terribly suspicious of Charlie, yet fights an urge of attraction. Her nature is perhaps hinted at early in the movie when a spider shows up on her leg. The movie is great to look at with some beautiful sets. Park has made a stylistic, if not perfect thriller.
*Check out Hitchcock's excellent "Shadow of a Doubt" for a similar themed film about another Uncle Charlie. Also for Hitchcock fans, see if you can spot the McGuffin(s).
Another bonus is the excellent Blu ray transfer. It has the usual 1080p video resolution and a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The movie was originally shot using 35mm film and the transfer to Blu ray is flawless. Wonderful clarity. Check out the detail of the spider crawling on the floor and onto India's leg. Great skin tones. The audio component is likewise exemplary. Using a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, there are numerous subtleties that eek out of the speakers. A ticking metronome, insects, rain, hooting owls are highlighted. There are a couple scenes where India and Charlie play the piano. Excellent as is the whole film score. Here is a list of extras:
*Deleted Scenes (HD, 10:01)
*Stoker: A Filmmaker's Journey (HD, 27:50)
*Photography by Mary Ellen Mark (HD, 11:15)
*London Theater Design (HD, 2:35)
*Theatrical Behind-the-Scenes: 5 short sub-segments.
◦The Making of the Limited Edition Poster (HD, 2:55)
◦Mysterious Characters (HD, 3:33)
◦Director's Vision (HD, 3:28)
◦Designing the Look (HD, 3:02)
◦Creating the Music (HD, 2:39)
*Red Carpet Footage (HD, 15:38)
*"Becomes the Color" Performance by Emily Wells (HD, 4:46)
*Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots (HD, 3:48)
*Sneak Peek (HD, 10:22)
56 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 2013
"Stoker" is a beautiful, twisted, hypnotic trance - it's meant for an audience not overly concrete in it's thinking but who have an open imagination and are able to take the plunge into the darkly poetic vision of it's director. The three principle actors are superb but Mia Wasikowska really gives the film a beating heart, as she emerges from her innocense into her latent self. This movie is filled with images that are as disturbing as they are lyrical and open to endless interpretation. I've seen the movie three times in theaters and find that my impressions change with each viewing and that it has really haunted my imagination. "Stoker" is one of those unique and mysterious masterpieces that I'm sure I will be returning to frequently over the years - there's much to drink in, as the well runs deep,
77 of 100 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2013
* Also published on Imdb *
Another masterpiece by Park, who playfully, coldly and ruthlessly explores the darkness of the human psyche.
The movie is not only as good as the trailer, but hugely better and even more mysterious and captivating. It simply blows your mind away. Fortunately, I ignored the negative Anglophobe reviews and watched it. It's the most complete artistic work by Chan-wook Park in his career so far, an ingenious masterpiece, with the only minor complaint being the lack of the explicit violence he depicts in his Korean movies; this is not his fault though, but the request of the American companies involved, and still he manages to make us shiver with the cruelty of the violent scenes depicted and insinuated.
To fully appreciate this movie, you must have watched Old Boy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, and in general to be a fan of Korean and Japanese cinema. The script is excellent, violent, unpredicted, the plot mysterious and sinister, and not for those who love the silliness of American spoon-fed cinema. If you don't like or understand international cinema, then don't bother. This movie and Matthew Goode's performance are Oscar material, if Oscars were not political travesties.
I have never watched such a cinematic masterpiece before. Highly stylised, every move, every word, the posture of the actors, every tiny detail has a meaning. The mansion filmed on location has an ominous air of decadence. The plot is clearly outlined: India is a strange girl, with something dark and off about her. Her mother is a depressed rich stay-at-home housewife, and we understand that her marriage has become a chore. When India's father has a mysterious car accident, uncle Charlie, an unbelievably handsome man, suddenly appears. And bad things start happening. Who, what and why? The movie builds up the plot and the suspension like a dance or the notes of a symphony! This is something I have felt with other movies by Park, and they are the only movies I watch again and again to fully take in and appreciate every detail, and the beautiful music throughout. Little by little, every nod, word, step, bring us to the climax, to the end, the answer to the questions and the harsh reality. There are no easy supernatural explanations here. Only the malevolence of the human heart.
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
STOKER is a strange little film that unfurls its blossom of a story in manner that draws the viewer into the hauntingly bizarre family with fine writing (actor Wentworth Miller with Erin Cressida Wilson), fine directing (Chan-wook Park), fine art direction (Wing Lee) fine casting and some of the most beautiful cinematography of the year (Chung-hoon Chung). The magnetism of the film beings while the credits are being shown over the background of a beautifully wooded area where a girl is walking toward a roadside. The voice over, that of the main character India Stoker, states `My ears hear what others cannot hear; small faraway things people cannot normally see are visible to me. These senses are the fruits of a lifetime of longing, longing to be rescued, to be completed. Just as the skirt needs the wind to billow, I'm not formed by things that are of myself alone. I wear my father's belt tied around my mother's blouse, and shoes which are from my uncle. This is me. Just as a flower does not choose its color, we are not responsible for what we have come to be. Only once you realize this do you become free, and to become adult is to become free.'
The plot can be summarized as follows without providing information that would destroy the suspenseful movement of this strange story: India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) was not prepared to lose her father and best friend Richard (Dermot Mulroney) in a tragic auto accident. The solitude of her woodsy family estate, the peace of her tranquil town, and the unspoken somberness of her home life are suddenly upended by not only this mysterious accident, but by the sudden arrival of her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), whom she never knew existed. When Charlie moves in with her and her emotionally unstable mother Evie (Nicole Kidman), India thinks the void left by her father's death is finally being filled by his closest bloodline. Soon after his arrival, India comes to suspect that this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives. Yet instead of feeling outrage or horror, this friendless young woman becomes increasingly infatuated with him. Yet it is on her 18th birthday that things dramatically change. There are plot twists that defy expectations in this movie whose elegant creativity is the biggest twist of all.
The musical score for the film is the work of Clint Mansell who repeatedly inserts excerpts from Verdi's opera `Il Trovatore' - the aria `Stride la Vampa' sung by the ominous gypsy Azucena (`Screeches the blaze!
The restless mob
runs to the fire
with happy faces'). Every detail of this polished thriller has been expertly conceived. The strong supporting cast includes Phyllis Somerville, Jacki Weaver, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich and others. This is an example of expert film craftsmanship on the part of everyone concerned. Grady Harp, June 13
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2013
Psychotic people are dangerous. I don't know about you, but no one ever told me that. Still, it seems pretty important to know, don't you think? That, and don't tell crazy people they're crazy. Considering the fact that it's highly probable they have a wide range of personality disorders, they'll feel betrayed and most likely try to kill you. Crazy isn't exactly a compliment, you know. The 18 year-old India (Mia Wasikowska) learned the dangers of psychotic people in Park Chan-wook's (director of Oldboy) 2013 psychological thriller film, Stoker (written by Wentworth Miller under pseudonym Ted Foulke). Now despite being one of the most disturbing films I've ever seen (not comparable to A Serbian Film or Visitor Q, more in the realm of Margaret or Cracks) it wasn't overly horrible, like some disturbing films are. Despite being less than original, Matthew Goode surprisingly makes an eerily convincing pedophilic uncle, the cinematography was spellbinding, and it did have a few startling plot twists.
Although Mia Wasikowska looks like an older and female version of the 2006 Omen's antichrist, Damien, Stoker is actually an incestuous twist off of Alfred Hitchcock's 1943 Shadow of a Doubt. Shadow of a Doubt focuses on homicidal psychopathic Uncle Charlie who visits his older sister. When his niece, also called Charlie, discovers his crimes, he devises various ways to murder her, always unsuccessfully. Stoker also focuses on homicidal psychopathic Uncle Charlie who visits his late brother's family and develops a complex relationship with his niece, India. Along with Shadow of a Doubt, Stoker contains Hitchcock's themes of the charming sociopath, the double, the perfect murder, suspense, trains, and mothers. Stoker also contained standard Hitchcock themes of food and death, birds, tennis, audience as voyeur and sexuality.
Even though Hitchcock is universally renowned for his film noir, I favored Stoker out of the two. Matthew Goode steps out of his typical rom-com role to play India Stoker's lecherous Uncle Charlie with unnerving ease. Nicole Kidman plays India's neglectful and self-absorbed mother, capturing her cold aura perfectly, to no surprise. On the other hand, Mia Wasikowska portrayed outcast India with a unique blend of innocence and malice. In spite of the outstanding acting, some plot devices were simply not credible. The movie was shot with careful attention to the use of color, and several scenes were quite eye-catching.
All in all, Stoker was a movie worth watching (I'm looking forward to seeing Miller's prequel, Uncle Charlie), one that kept you on the edge of your seat every minute, unlike Shadow of a Doubt. It raises questions, at least for me, such as why does realistic horror scare us? Are we afraid that what we've done will come back for revenge?
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2013
(more like 4-1/2 stars for me)
Chan-Wook Park, South Korean director of cult classic 'Oldboy' and its companion films, made his English-language film debut with STOKER, a Hitchcockian suspense tale starring Mia Wasikowska as India Stoker, a teenaged girl dealing with the death of her father on her eighteenth birthday. Never close to her mother Evelyn (Nichole Kidman) but adored by her father, India's world is turned further upside down by the arrival of her father's brother, Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), a handsome and charismatic guy, recently back from living abroad, who hasn't seen India since she was a baby.
Without giving anything away, it becomes very clear - very quickly - that something is not quite right about Uncle Charlie; that his calm, quiet, smiling exterior may hold something much, much darker. And as India tries to peel away the layers of her uncle, what is revealed are things that repulse ... but also, bizarrely, fascinate.
To say more would be giving away too much, but I can say I loved the film; it's smart, intense, and beautifully written. Mia Wasikowska proves she's one of the best actors of her generation working today, and Nicole Kidman does her usual excellent job, this time playing a broken bird of a woman who may be too far gone to be fixed. But Matthew Goode, always a favorite of mine, shines here as the deceptively kind Uncle Charlie, and his scenes with Wasikowska particularly play like twisted works of art.
I guess I can see, a bit, why some reviewers call this an updating of Hitchcock's 'Shadow of a Doubt' (one of my all-time favorite of Hitchcock's films, and one EVERYONE should see); I read somewhere that the name of Uncle Charlie's character in this film was an homage to Joseph Cotten's "Uncle Charlie" in the Hitchcock classic, and God knows the film's tone and mood are very Hitchcockian. But I think it's unfair to not let this film shine on its own; its a suspenseful, riveting, and oddly satisfying little thriller that might not be for everyone - but I think anyone watching it would be hard-pressed to say they weren't affected by it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2014
This is a dark "bildungsroman", as the Germanic literary term depicts, a tumultuous and romantic "education of the young romantic". Good examples are "Jane Eyre," Great Expectations", "The Scarlet and the Black", and among the best, James Joyce's "The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man". While it would be outrageous to suggest that this movie belongs in this exalted company, it is by far one of the best films I have seen that even approaches these masterpieces, outside of David Lean's fabulous cinematic adaption of "Great Expectations". It is interesting, since clearly India herself is clearly unhinged, to determine how many of her perceptions are real, and how many are simply the delusions of a troubled mind. Many questions are unclear: Does the evil Uncle really exist? Does India herself murder him or the mother? Is Grandma really in the freezer? Nevertheless, fabulous performances all around, a sumptuous presentation of sets, a great soundtrack, all highlight a really great "alternative" film. See this one, for your own education.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2014
I thought all the actors played their role stellarly. Matthew Goode was hypnotically alluring and Mia is a superb up and coming actress. I saw her in Jane Eyre and she was superb. This movie you do have to watch several times to get all the symbolism that the director wants the viewer to get, and you do. You start to connect the dots. The movie has its perverse aspects but I was very taken with the relationship between Charlie and India. Blood is blood, and certain Lazos Perversos (perverse ties) are not easily broken or controlled. They are part of the ancestral family tree, all the good and all the bad. Many affinities are there in Charlie's and India's DNA. Loved their piano duet; their familial chemistry. It is in that scene that they both bond and realize that they understand each other very well. They are family.
I recommend this very serious movie highly. I get it. :)
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2013
First the positive. The acting was amazing, not just from Nichole "Give me my Oscar Dammnitt", Kidman, but the performances from all cast members was amazing. Second the visuals are praiseworthy and stunning. But that's it. The movie wallows in it's own pretension so much that it was hard to keep one's attention. It does not build much in the way of suspense, as much as it could put one to sleep waiting for the plot to come to fruition. I wanted to like this movie, but found it unbelievably boring. It didn't have to be. Someone could have worked the script to make this one of the best thrillers of the year. With the cast and the visuals it could have been something remarkable.