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.
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)
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,
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
on July 15, 2013
I loved this movie.It took a while to figure it our.The story slowly unfolded.You knew from the start there was something not quite right with the young girl.You couldnt figure if it was just typical teenage moodiness or something else more sinister.It was interesting that the psycopath gene seemed to be passed down from the uncle to the young girl.It really clicked for me that something was seriously wrong in the shower scene. She was so turned on thinking about her uncle killing the young boy who attacked her in the woods.Thats when it clicked that she was a psycopath just like her uncle.Something a little bit different to the normal run of the mill movie.
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.
on June 22, 2013
I was excited to see Stoker from the moment I saw the trailer for it, and in the end it did not disappoint me at all. This won't be a movie for everyone--it is quiet and subtle and the tension within it builds very slowly. It's not going to jump out and bash you in the face, which many movie-goers prefer in a Michael Bay world, so if you're looking for something a bit more obvious or in the realm of the fast-paced pulse-pounder, then you're going to want to skip this. But if you appreciate something built on mood and tension, then Stoker should be a great match for you.
The film is beautifully shot--the visuals are amazing, and at many points it feels like you could randomly pause the image and have a beautiful work of art to frame. The story itself runs closely to Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt in its premise, though it doesn't follow it exactly. The actors that play the members of the Stoker family all do an excellent job of portraying characters that are "off," though charismatic. The movie does occasionally broadcast its direction a bit too soon, ruining a few of the "twists" within it, but the overall impression is a dark, twisted coming of age tale that disturbs and fits well into the Hicthcockian vein of suspense/horror. I'm looking forward to more scripts from Wentworth Miller and more films from Park Chan-wook.
on July 9, 2013
I will preface this review by saying that this movie is most certainly not for everyone. Stylistically it is great and I found there to be enough action to keep me interested. The movie starts off with the daughter and mother finding out that their father and husband has died in a car crash...it picks up essentially right at the funeral and you are introduced to the Uncle...the Uncle who the daughter never even knew existed. Well, I would say that is kinda weird, what would the reason for that be? Throughout the films running time you slowly get to see more and more of how creepy and crazy this Uncle character is. Finally towards the end finding out why they hid him from her is wonderful. I personally would highly recommend this to anyone...basically if you watch the trailer and are interested, check it out as long as you aren't expecting non stop action and violence.
on December 10, 2015
Didn't come off quite as well as it could have, but that is more due to the long blacklisted Hollywood script rather than Director Park making his US debut. Park does a great job with the quiet and still elements that lend this a claustrophobic vibe as the audience waits for the inevitable twist. Its not Oldboy and if thats what you are expecting then you will definitely be disappointed, but if you like style and thrillers, then this fits the bill well. Hoping Park continues to make more English language films down the road, despite the box office failure of this one. Its certainly not on him.
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. :)