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Review: Stoker

Feb. 25, 2013by: Chris Bumbray
100%

PLOT: When her father is killed on the eve of her eighteen birthday, India (Mia Wasikowska) is left in the care of her cold-blooded mother- Evie (Nicole Kidman). Their world is shaken when India's long-absent uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) comes to live with them. Both India and Evie quickly fall under the spell of the handsome and charismatic Charlie- but India soon realizes her uncle hides a murderous secret.

REVIEW: You know how some international directors get shoehorned into a typical Hollywood genre picture in the U.S debut? Yeah- that didn't happen to Park Chan-wook, the South Korean master behind OLD BOY. Whatever it is- STOKER is a Park Chan-wook film through and through- and the result is dazzling.

A few months ago, I wrote a review complaining about how Hollywood horror movies are nowadays typically regulated to B-fare. STOKER is the cure for this problem, as it's a sophisticated, layered piece of genre cinema that deserves comparison to many of the best horror films of yesteryear. Well- perhaps calling STOKER horror is misrepresenting the film a tad. I suppose psychological thriller is a better description, with this owing more than a little to the oeuvre of Alfred Hitchcock- especially his classic SHADOW OF A DOUBT.

Working from a script by former PRISON BREAK star Wentworth Miller, STOKER feels like the work of someone intimately familiar with Hitchcock's work- although I wouldn't go so far as to call this an all out homage. The primary similarity is the young leading lady on the cusp of adulthood, who's mesmerized by her handsome, sophisticated, and murderous uncle. But- where Teresa Wright was terrified of Joseph Cotton's mania, Mia Wasikowka's India is far less a shrinking violet. Sometimes, the thing that's most taboo and dangerous is the most attractive, and that's an idea very much at the heart of STOKER.

It's hard to imagine anyone but the ultra-charismatic Matthew Goode as Charlie, and while the originally cast Colin Firth would have no doubt been great, this feels tailor made for Goode's talents. I'd wager he verges on being iconic as the sinister, but attractive uncle- as Goode is one of those guys that can be impossible to read if he wants to be. This is a must for Charlie- who you'll never really have figured out- even past the end credits.

Still- Goode isn't the star of STOKER. This is Wasikowka's film through and through- and India, which is an extremely difficult part, fits her like a glove. Like Goode, she has that distant, otherworldly look where you'll never really know what their character is thinking. Nicole Kidman- while probably playing the most two-dimensional role of the film, is also quite good, and Kidman doesn't shy away from letting herself come off as an ice-cold bitch, barely able to control her excitement at the presence of the handsome new man who shakes up her life.

Maybe even more than the actors though- Park Chan-wook is the real star of STOKER. It needs to be said- Park is not a subtle director, and there's nary a straightforward shot in the film. Something unusual is always happening on screen, and to say STOKER is stylized is probably the understatement of the year. This technique may repel some- as it's even more “out-there” than it was in THIRST or OLD BOY- but it fits the material beautifully. I should also mention that STOKER is probably Park's most violent film since SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE. Pretty ballsy for a big studio film.

STOKER is definitely not a subtle film, nor a conventional one. If anything, it's a film that probably needs to be seen twice to be fully appreciated. However, even at this first glance, it's a film that's virtually impossible to get out of your head after watching it. It's pure- undiluted Park Chan-wook, and one of the most unconventional Hollywood films you're likely to see anytime soon.

Source: JoBlo.com

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12:42AM on 06/06/2013
I went into this movie without knowing what it was about beforehand, which is pretty much impossible these days. It was very good and weird in a good way.
I went into this movie without knowing what it was about beforehand, which is pretty much impossible these days. It was very good and weird in a good way.
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4:42PM on 02/25/2013
Im glad to see he's having a better US film debut than Jee-woon Kim. I do wish Jee-woon Kim could've done something more in tune with his other great works unlike the really corny and lame looking The Last Stand. Im very much looking forward to this. Its does have a modern day Night of the Hunter feel.
Im glad to see he's having a better US film debut than Jee-woon Kim. I do wish Jee-woon Kim could've done something more in tune with his other great works unlike the really corny and lame looking The Last Stand. Im very much looking forward to this. Its does have a modern day Night of the Hunter feel.
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+8
6:30PM on 01/22/2013
Just saw the trailer, and wow, am I ever excited to see this!!
Just saw the trailer, and wow, am I ever excited to see this!!
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1:37PM on 01/22/2013

I still have no idea what this is about...

I thought it was about bram stoker when i first heard of it. And how he came to write his first books. Then I thought it was a vampire movie. Now IDK if it is even that LOL. but w/e it is I am down.
I thought it was about bram stoker when i first heard of it. And how he came to write his first books. Then I thought it was a vampire movie. Now IDK if it is even that LOL. but w/e it is I am down.
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9:50AM on 01/22/2013
Maybe Wentworth Miller should keep writing and put acting behind him. The man's good looking, but incredibly dull on screen.

I'm intrigued. This movie just went on my must see list.
Maybe Wentworth Miller should keep writing and put acting behind him. The man's good looking, but incredibly dull on screen.

I'm intrigued. This movie just went on my must see list.
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+12
9:13AM on 01/22/2013

A modern Night of the Hunter?

They're definitely going to be very different films, but the premise and the gothic look of this movie is reminiscent to me of "Night of the hunter" - both films are dark and feature a seemingly good willed and charming man that's thrust into the life of a child (Mia is not a child, but still) and their innocence is shattered in horrifying ways. Anyway this film looks great, I'm stoked to see it ;)
They're definitely going to be very different films, but the premise and the gothic look of this movie is reminiscent to me of "Night of the hunter" - both films are dark and feature a seemingly good willed and charming man that's thrust into the life of a child (Mia is not a child, but still) and their innocence is shattered in horrifying ways. Anyway this film looks great, I'm stoked to see it ;)
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+14
2:21AM on 01/22/2013
Cool, looking forward to this. I never doubted that Park was gonna nail it with this film, but it's nice to know for sure that this is a good one. And I love that Hollywood let him do his thing with the film. Between this and Jee-woon with The Last Stand, I am glad Hollywood is giving some awesome Korean directors a shot.
Cool, looking forward to this. I never doubted that Park was gonna nail it with this film, but it's nice to know for sure that this is a good one. And I love that Hollywood let him do his thing with the film. Between this and Jee-woon with The Last Stand, I am glad Hollywood is giving some awesome Korean directors a shot.
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