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2013 | 99 min | R | 2.39:1



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Movie appeal

Psychological thriller77%
Coming of age32%


Theatrical release date

 01 March, 2013
 01 March, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Screenshots from Stoker Blu-ray

Stoker Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, March 13, 2013

“Stoker” is Korean director Park Chan-wook’s English language debut. A master of the macabre, Park’s previous ventures include “Oldboy,” “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance,” and “Thirst,” solidifying his taste for the violent and the extreme, though he’s a very patient filmmaker, interested in manipulating his audience with baroque visual elements and suffocating emotional weight. Refusing to go Hollywood, Park retains his personality with “Stoker,” a vicious head-rattler of a feature that blends horror and raw psychological exposure, while inspecting a most diseased family tree. Unpredictable and enchantingly outlandish, the movie is often extraordinarily composed. Perhaps it’s far from perfect, but the atmosphere is deliciously thick with psychosis and the characters ideally unraveled.

When her father (Dermot Mulroney) dies mysteriously, India (Mia Wasikowska) is left to contend with her frosty, alcoholic mother, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), wallowing in her preferred sense of solitude. At the funeral, India meets Charlie (Matthew Goode), the uncle she never knew she had. An unnerving man trying to exude an air of worldliness and composure, Charlie decides to move in with Evelyn, who’s open to the idea of a handsome man in the house now that her unhappy marriage is over. India is unsure of the intruder, studying his moves carefully while suffering through her own hell in high school, subjected to torment from bullies (including Lucas Till). When people showing concern about India begin disappearing, including skittish Aunt Gin (Jacki Weaver), the young girl begins to suspect Charlie, only to discover her own propensity for violence as her infatuation with her uncle grows.

“Stoker” isn’t a feature for those who demand tight hospital corners of logic from their moviegoing. In fact, Park elects for an unreal approach to the script by actor Wentworth Miller, creating a gothic atmosphere that weaves through dreamscapes and memories, reimagining the writing as a festival of dysfunction celebrated on a cloud of glue fumes, with good and evil erased to study the unstable whole. It’s an insistent effort from Park, who amplifies sound effects and generates askew framing to embellish India’s world of suspicion and morbidity, with her senses raised now with Charlie in the picture, keeping her alertness on high as she navigates a home that’s almost alien to her (trips to the basement chest freezer are a treated as a haunted house excursion), while continuing to slog through growing pains of her own, finding her dear mother to be the rock salt in her wounds. It’s a film of licks, heavy breathing, and stares, as Park strives to turn the smallest of behaviors into a night at the opera, excitedly manipulating the audience with microscopic aural cues and a layered sensation of editing (beautifully handled by Nicolas De Toth).

I wouldn’t describe “Stoker” as a mystery, though it seems that’s the tone Miller was aiming for with his original script. It’s a tale of madness dressed up as seduction, finding Charlie using his external appeal to charm Evelyn and possess India, with both women succumbing to his odd behavior and sensual manner, though his approach, either guided by lust or domestic honor, is a question Park wickedly returns to, holding the uncle’s history until the end. Miller works to dig up these rotting family roots and explore the trail of contempt. Park takes the evidence and squeezes scenes for all the unease he can find, constructing a labyrinth of hallucinations and symbolism, keeping those who enjoy puzzles sufficiently curious, while viewers who favor disorientation are sated through exaggerated acts of violence and obsession, with a fixation on timing (metronomes are prominent) to help conduct the whole enterprise.

Casting is superb, from Kidman’s woozy sense of self-preservation (she has a killer monologue concerning the true impetus of parenthood) to Goode’s devilish caramel flow. However, “Stoker” is Wasikowska’s picture, imagining her character as a Wednesday Addams type with a severe social withdrawal problems and an insatiable curiosity. The arc of maturity, however uncomfortable and invasive it becomes, is crisply defined in actress’s performance, sustaining interest in the eventual outcome of the story. Park is lucky to have such a game cast, allowing him to explore the frame and the artfulness of violence while a human element remains, acting as a tether tied firmly to the director’s boundless imagination for torment.

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich
Director: Park Chan-wook

» See full cast & crew

Stoker, Forum Discussions

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Chan-wook Park's Stoker (2012) 82 Sep 20, 2013

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