September 17, 2013

Stoker (2013)

(aka Creepiset Family Ever)
Release Date:  On Blu-ray & DVD now.
Country: USA, UK.
Written by: Wentworth Miller and Erin Cressida Wilson.
Directed by: Chan-Wook Park.
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode and Dermot Mulroney.

Chan-Wook Park is an auteur. If you haven't seen Oldboy, you're doing yourself an huge disservice as a movie lover, and you need to correct that omission immediately. He's huge in South Korea (is best Korea), and we've long been fans of his Vengeance Trilogy and Thirst, and so we were genuinely excited to see his English-language debut.

... and who would have thought that the guy from Prison Break had this sort of creativity in him? Nothing against Wentworth Miller or anything, but I always saw him as another empty, "he's only here because he's good looking and girls will tune in to see him," Channing Tatum-type of actor, only less famous. After seeing Stoker however, I absolutely stand corrected on that front. The kid can write, and he's crafted himself one hell of a Hitchcockian Thriller here.

Stoker is an odd little movie that hearkens back to a time when nobody did suspense better than did Alfred Hitchcock. In fact, it's a direct homage to the man and his films, and a good one at that.

India Stoker is celebrating her 18th Birthday when she learns that her Father has just died in a terrible car accident. Needless to say, that pretty much kills the whole Birthday Party thing, as she and her Mother are fairly distraught.

It's not long before India's long-lost Uncle Charlie shows up (coincidence?), and decides to move in with his late brother's family, so as to "take care of them" and what not. India doesn't like this, because Uncle Molesto is a Creeper who not only starts banging her mom, but makes it clear that he wants to bang her too. So that's what "take care of them" means. Smooth move, Uncle Rapey.

Without giving too much away here, Uncle Bad-Touch does have some creepy secrets that he tries desperately to keep under wraps, but India is just too clever to remain in the dark for long. What unfolds thereafter is a Hitchcockian game of incestuous cat-and-mouse, which I'm still trying to fully process.

Run into the woods... it's dark, desolate, and safe there!
Wentworth Miller set out to write a screenplay that paid homage to the classic movies of Hitchcock, and with the help of Park Chan-Wook, he accomplished his goal. 

Stoker is nothing if not different... odd, even... and really weird. It manages to pull off the Thriller vibe quite well, and all the while the story that surrounds the central mystery twists and turns, and takes you to all kinds of odd places. At times, Stoker felt very Tim Burton-ish to me (at least in a visual way),  and at others, it felt like pure Hitchcock suspense. You can debate whether this movie and its narrative were creative and eclectic, or just plain confused, but you have to admit that it was at the very least, wildly different.

If nothing else, Stoker makes you think a little bit, and that's a most welcome change from the norm for us.

India Stoker in Wonderland?
Stoker at times feels like it's more style than it is substance. Park is obviously a director whose films have a unique visual signature about them, but here it feels as if the movie relies too much on the visual styling at times.

Will people ever learn to stop poking the bear?

Is someone getting lucky in that phone booth?
People get shocked to death, necks get snapped, bullets enter bodies... there's even a pair of gardening shears that see some action. There's nothing overtly gory to see here, although things do get bit messy in the third act. You're not really seeing Stoker for bloody kill scenes though, are you?

This movie is oozing with all sorts of sexuality an innuendo, even metaphor, though none of it gets very graphic. Mom bangs Uncle, Uncle tries to bang Niece, Niece decides to bang a kid at School but then changes her mind and rubs one out in the shower instead... it's all done in a very "artistic" way though.

Can rape truly ever be artistic though?
"Personally speaking I can't wait to watch life tear you apart."

 Everyone has got a screwed-up Family. Also, an Uncle's love is the creepiest kind.

Now why would you even look in there!
Stoker is a visually-striking, lush journey into the Sexual Awakening of a young girl, which all plays out within the confines of a Hitchcokian-style Mystery/Thriller. If you can appreciate a film for its subtleties, and if you don't like everything spelled out for you by the time it ends, then this movie will be right up your alley. As ambiguous as it is at times, Stoker also has its moments of straightforward fright and bloody moments throughout, just know that this movie is not really about such things.

Definitely worth a watch... or three, if you want to try and figure out what you just saw.


The sexuality that oozes in this movie, no matter how disturbing and creepy it may be, is thanks to the lovely Mia Wasikowska and the still-lovely Nicole Kidman.


  1. Relatively new reader here, so hi!

    Love the way you breakdown your reviews. As for Stoker, I loved it. Maybe there is more style than substance but sometimes it's nice to be reminded that cinema is a visual medium. It's refreshing to see a film-maker try something different and expressive. You could take a still shot of any scene and it would look like a beautiful photograph.

    Oh and Matthew Goode needs to be in more films of this calibre!

  2. Hi, Ben!

    I kinda like the way we do it too, keeps all the relevant catergories seperate, for ease of use.

    I loved Stoker for its visual aspects. You're right, I think we all forget that film is first and foremost a visual medium.

    If you liked his style here, you should see some of Chan Wook-Park's older films, most notably Oldboy and Thirst.

  3. I expected something different from this movie but I stepped out of the cinema with a smile on my face. The visual aspect is beautiful and I loved the creepy and tense atmosphere. It's not the best Chan Wook-Park's film regarding plot but it is certainly innovative and fun to watch.

  4. Watching this, there were seval times when I thought "Style over substance." and I'm glad that you thought this too. I think that I would have bought it better if this was a korean movie. I believe that I'm already used to see this in a korean movie. As a whole I think this was a solid afford, although I can't bring myself to like the girl. Not sure if I was ment to.

  5. Great review, I did enjoy this movie but also agree about the style over substance...what a pretty little movie to look at though!