Stoker (2013)

StokerFollowing the death of Richard Stoker (Dermot Mulroney), estranged brother Charlie (Matthew Goode) moves in with widowed wife Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) and disturbed daughter India (Mia Wasikowska). As visiting relatives and other acquaintances start to disappear under mysterious circumstances, suspicion gives way to infatuation as both women become increasingly obsessed with their new house-guest. But just what is it that Charlie wants with the Stoker women?

The latest film by celebrated director Park Chan-wook, shot from a Black Listed script by Ted Foulke (aka Wentworth Miller aka Prison Break‘s Michael Scofield) and starring the likes of Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman, very few films show as much promise as this. Burdensome hype and filmmaking pedigree are not all that Stoker shares with its 2012 equivalent  Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, however, it is also an enormous disappointment.

First impressions are admittedly good — particularly as a result of Chung Chung-hoon’s sterling cinematography — and there is an initial unease as each of  the characters are introduced and the set-up established, but any intrigue and interest is soon replaced by indifference as it trundles towards its infuriatingly unsatisfying finale. By film’s end the audience is still no closer to grasping character motivations, understanding Stoker‘s internal logic or caring about the increasingly inevitable conclusion.

There is a confusion at the heart of Stoker that hints towards competing influences and intentions, best exemplified by the film’s evocative and utterly misleading title. Miller has always maintained that his film has never been concerned with vampires or vampire lore, but is instead channeling Hitchcock’s Shadow Of The Dark. Watching Stoker, however, the allusions to Dracula are undeniable, whether its Charlie asking permission to stay with the family, India sharpening stake-like pencils or the importance afforded to red wine. But this is just one dead end among many, as Stoker continues to hemorrhage tension by plunging shallow depths.

But if Stoker is neither Hitchcockian thriller or supernatural suspense, what exactly is it? The most memorable scenes depict a young girl surrounded by a lifetime’s worth of shoes, a disturbingly seductive piano duet and a flashback to a childhood tragedy, yet none of these elements are ever satisfactorily explored or given any real importance narratively. With a story as slim as Stoker‘s, you need strong themes or interesting characters to hold the viewers’ attention. It’s an overused line of criticism, but Stoker really is all style and very little substance.

It’s not that Stoker‘s characters are badly acted; its just that there aren’t really any characters in it to begin with. This is most evident in the periphery, with the film’s supporting players proving woefully autonomic and two-dimensional. Lucas Till’s brash bully would seem underdeveloped in a teen movie, while Alden Ehrenreich’s awkward transition from good guy to would-be rapist just doesn’t ring true. Goode and Kidman get by on screen presence alone, but it is only Wasikowska who makes any real impression, quite despite her rather flat character arc. Most worryingly of all, however, is the fact that the various disappearances go unnoticed not only by the other characters, but the audience too.

But while Stoker is far from a good movie, it isn’t exactly a bad one either. The main problem is that it’s simply not interesting, either as a Gothic horror film or as anything more ostentatious. In trying to say so much, Stoker doesn’t say anything at all. Even if it does so artfully.

2-stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

2 Responses to Stoker (2013)

  1. Pingback: February 2013 – Snitches end up in ditches! | popcornaddict

  2. Pingback: Ten 2013 Movies That Can’t Come Quickly Enough | popcornaddict

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