Stoker was easily one of my favorite movies of 2013. While I do not normally recommend movies this new, I had to shout-out Stoker, because the more and more people I ask about it, the more I realize. For some inexplicable reason, there are a great many film and horror fans who are not even aware this film exists. This is Chan-Wook Park’s first American language film (known for his classic Oldboy) and while it may not keep the pacing that film does, it carries itself in a way that makes it just as enthralling and intriguing as that amazing film. Stoker is a slow burn at first, but once the flame catches, as Hell breaks loose. At the end of the day, it is nice to peer into a family dynamic that is even more f*cked up than my own.
They are all SO perfect, you just know they are anything but.
Stoker is a 2013 film, starring Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Mathew Goode. It mainly focuses on Mia as India Stoker. She recently lost her Father, and seems a bit naive and lost in the world. Her mother (played by Kidman) is a bit unstable, and India’s own life seems to be unwelcoming to her. Cue the handsome stranger, played by Mathew Goode. He tells them he is her Uncle Charlie, and was her now deceased Father’s brother. You can tell right away that this guy has motives, but you do not know what they are, nor do either Stoker woman. The other odd part is, there is something so charismatic and well put together about the guy, he just seems to be able to get away with a little more than most people would. You can see India has her doubts about him, yet you can also tell she is falling under a sort of spell he is casting upon the household. It is quite easy to tell that India’s Mom is getting quite infatuated with Uncle Charlie as well. Like most Chan-Wook movies, you can feel the odd sense of uneasiness just under the surface at all times. His films are like tea kettles they slowly come to a boil. In Stoker, you can sense it is all coming to a boil, but you have no idea how or when that will happen. You just need to stew and sweat like everyone else while you wait to get there.
As you can see, the movie oozes with style. A visually stunning film that often uses visual metaphors in ways you may not pick up the first time you see the film. I know, and can openly admit, I expected more from Stoker the very first time I saw it. Only because I am well versed in the films of Park Chan-Wook and know how wildly he swings his moments sometimes. If you find yourself waiting for the “Hammer scene” from Oldboy, this film will disappoint you, too. The truth is, this film has its hammer scene, but you may need to give it a second watch to figure out which scene that is. THAT is exactly why I loved this film. Because I initially walked away from it having “liked” it, but the true weight of the film hit over the course of the next week. Once I went with my instinct to watch it again, that is when all the subtle things I missed stood out to me. This is horror for the intellectual crowd. This is the anti-Saw. A movie that will you love more and more, the more you sit with it AFTER you experience it.
Here India, you forgot your symbolic umbrella….
So what happens, Remy? You have to give us more than just “an uncle shows up and madness ensues.” The thing is, I really don’t. The movie is very much like getting the skeleton of a dinosaur in the mail. You slowly build it up. It may take work. Hell. it may take weeks. But once it is done and you stand beneath it, looking up, you realize how big and grand and amazing it is. Thing is, you don’t get that when just one shin bone is set up next to a foot. You NEED to spend time with this film, building it, bone by bone.
Now onto performances.
Though many may think Mathew Goode is the star of this film, after you see it, you know it is all Mia Wasikowska. The character she is when the film begins and the character she is when the film ends are like two different people. She goes on quite a proverbial journey, and we see her tap in to sides of herself that even she may not have know were there until Uncle Charlie shows up. It could very much be called a “coming of age” movie, or a “teen finding herself” film, but I think we all know that we don’t always find what we are looking for. Sometimes, if we look deep enough, we may find something that even scares us. Keep in mind, Kidman and Goode are brilliant as well, but Mia Wasikowska is a revelation in this film.
We all have that moment when we feel something shift and forever change inside of us.
You kids all know being vague on here is a big part of how I pitch these articles every week. I think the worst kinds of reviews are the reviews that tell you major plot points and twists, and then tell you their reaction to those twists. No. What a review should do is intrigue someone to the point when they need to see the movie, but not such a thorough review that it sucks any of the fun out of the ride. Afterall, the ride is the best part.
While Stoker does not get as disturbing as some of Park’s other films, it definitely has some key moment when you hope someone you love doesn’t walk in the room, so be aware of that. Not super gory, but has a few moment that will muster a reaction from you, undoubtedly. Some dark sexual themes, dark family themes, and themes of the dark side of humanity itself are all present. Hell, it wouldn’t be a Park film if they weren’t. But outside of the twisted story and killer conclusion, don’t forget to notice just how beautiful the actual film is. Noticing those shots and moments that are unreal and breath taking are half of what makes Stoker such an amazing, unforgettable ride. So see Stoker, and more than once if you truly wish to appreciate it.