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Park Chan-wook has proved himself to be Korea's version of Quentin
Tarantino. With a slew of acclaimed films under his belt (Thirst, Lady
Vengeance) including a revenge cult classic (Oldboy), he is no stranger
to the violent and macabre. Stoker, his first English-language film, is
a bit more on the tamer side, but by far his most intellectual and
The story revolves around an 18-year-old India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska), whose father has passed away in a bizarre car wreck. His wife, played by Nicole Kidman, arranges for her mysterious brother-in-law Charlie (Matthew Goode) to stay with the family in order to help them cope. India is skeptical of her uncle whom she barley knows, and grows more suspicious when rumors float around saying that he is sleeping with her own mom. To say anything more at this point would be spoiling the mystery behind this elusive family who all have their fair share of skeletons in the closet.
At its heart, Stoker is a psychological thriller, and the best kind you can ask for. The limited amount of characters and slow pacing of the movie give the audience time to reflect and peer into the minds of the Stoker family.
The film is beautifully shot with eerie accompanying music composed by Clint Mansel. Though it lacks the blood and carnage of previous movies directed by Park, Stoker is one of the best films of its genre I have seen.
It is a suspenseful ride with more twists than your typical roller-coaster including an ending that blew me away. I loved every minute of it.
As a fan of Chan-Wook Park's Korean films, particular his gross twist
on a vampire story in 2009's Thirst, I was incredibly excited to see
his first English language offering. Stoker, the first film made
stateside by CWP, defiantly doesn't disappoint. This is largely due to
the director staying with what he knows, telling a story that has all
the dark hallmarks from his Korean works. However, Stoker is also less
extreme then one would expect from Chan-Wook Park, as many moments of
violence and depravity that could have been much more over the top are
Stoker focuses on the titular family of India, Evelyn, and Richard Stoker (Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, and Dermot Mulroney). When Richard dies in a mysterious car crash, his oddball daughter India begins to further distance herself from her estranged mother, Evelyn. After burying their patriarch, the family is visited by India's Uncle, Charlie. Charlie seems a little out there, and begins to form a sketchy relationship with India that suggests Uncle Charlie may desire more than family bonding.
To elaborate any more would spoil the film, but needless to say it's an interesting premise. The story unfolds very slowly, with few dramatic developments until the second half of the film, which contains much more wizz-bang than the somber and meticulously paced beginning. This isn't a bad thing, largely because the characters are so fascinating from the get-go that accompanying them while they go about their day to day lives is a pleasure. Even when the movie seems to be resting on its laurels early on, the performances are great all around (in particular Wasikowska's performance as distant and on-edge India). Except for a few odd holes, the script stays strong throughout, providing plenty of great dialogue courtesy of Wentworth Miller (you read that right,the dude from Resident Evil: Afterlife. Who saw that coming?).
Of course, the strongest link in the chain is Chan-wook Park. From the opening scene of fragmented shots with computer generated transitions that occur throughout the movie, his mark is clearly laid on the film. Stoker never has an ugly moment, and each shot oozes with that distinctive Chan-wook flair. My personal favorite is an early scene in a basement involving a swinging light fixture (think Once upon a time in the West). The only thing that feels absent compared to CWP's other efforts is a slew of neasea-indusing scenes whose only purpose is to shock the audience. Although Stoker has a few jarring moments (think showers), for the most part its very restrained compared to Chan-wook's other works. This is fine up until the last act, when the nature of the story demanded for a more powerful and shocking denouement then what was given. So despite not quite sticking the landing, Stoker is effectively creepy, well acted, and an enjoyable beginning to what I hope will be a long English language career for Chan-wook Park.
"Stoker" is a beautiful, twisted, hypnotic trance - it's meant for an audience not overly concrete in it's thinking but who have an open imagination and are able to take the plunge into the darkly poetic vision of it's director. "Stoker" doesn't exist in a normal, everyday reality - it's more of an alternative dream reality, hyper-aware and sexually charged. The three principle actors are superb, but Mia Wasikowska really gives the film a beating heart, as she emerges from her innocence into her latent self - a mesmerizing performance. This movie is filled with images that are as disturbing as they are lyrical and open to endless interpretation. I've seen the film multiple times and find that my impressions change with each viewing and that it has really haunted my imagination. "Stoker" is one of those unique and mysterious masterpieces that I'm sure I will be returning to frequently over the years - there's much to drink in, as the well runs deep.
What typically happens when a prestigious Asian Director makes the
transition to their first English language film is that the resulting
feature is a stylistically watered down, less edgy affair and the worst
film of their career. Presumably, Hollywood studios interfere so much
they end up robbing them of what people loved in the first place. I can
firmly say with utter relief that this is not the case with Chan-wook
Stylish, artistic, beautiful, controversial and feeling much more like a movie from his native South Korea; Chan-wook Park is bang on form. All that's changed is the actors are American and speak in the English language, and the location of course. I sincerely hope Hollywood takes note that this is how to do it right! Don't interfere with the artist and corrupt and americanise their vision. However, I have heard there was a 20 minute enforced cut made to the film by an editor for the studio. Here's what the Director has to say about it:
"It's just such a different animal from what I've experienced in Korea," he says, "but it's just like how you can't really complain about the weather in the States when you're going over to shoot a film. The Searchlight people had good taste, though. There were some differences of opinion, but at least they didn't make any nonsensical remarks."
Chan-wook Park is responsible for such acclaimed movies as 'Oldboy', 'Lady Vengeance' and 'Thirst'. Until now at least, 'Oldboy' was his most famous movie, and an American remake nobody wants is due for release soon. 'Stoker' is admittedly less violent and more subtle than those movies, but only because frequent action isn't suitable for this particular script. It's primarily a character study focusing on the loss of innocence, and I'm sure some less contemplative people hoping for frequent action will be disappointed. When it comes to style and controversy though, this movie delivers and was everything I'd hoped it would be. It's stunning to look at and almost every shot is symbolic. More often than not it's sexual symbolism regarding loss of innocence, and the same goes for the frequent symbolism in the dialogue. Furthermore, there's a wonderful Hitchcock feel to it and clearly pays homage to 'Shadow Of A doubt' with a character called Uncle Charlie.
The writer is Wentworth Miller, an actor, and this being his first screenplay makes it all the more impressive. Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary, Chloe) is credited as contributing writer. Based on the quality of this movie, Wentworth Miller needs to get writing some more screenplays, although less homage to Hitchcock would be an idea next time.
I also felt the subject matter was a perfect match for Director Chan-wook Park, who's no stranger to controversial themes. It's a really rather pervy film, even if done subtly, artistically, and almost entirely non-explicitly. However, there's one particular scene I found gloriously wrong and solidified my opinion that the filmmakers had at least been respected and the goal of the studio wasn't to tame and americanise the Director. However, it will be interesting if a Director's cut comes out, or at least deleted scenes to see what cuts were made and if they were a good move making it less baggy or toning it down. The important thing as of now is that the result is a great movie. Movie critic Chris Tookey, for The Daily Mail, was disgusted by the film, so it can't be that toned down. A one star review from this man almost guarantees greatness.
The title and characters' surname 'Stoker' has obvious vampiric connotations, so some will be wondering if it's a vampire movie. Well it is and it isn't There are no fangs or capes or turning into bats, but the name 'Stoker' is certainly no coincidence. Vampire mythology, literature and movies are loaded with symbolism of the sexual predator seducing the innocent. Furthermore, one of the definitions of the word 'vampire' is non-literal, simply meaning a person who preys on others. Vampires are also natural hunters and killers and there's a nature verses nature aspect. These themes are essentially what the movie is about.
Nicole Kidman plays mother 'Evelyn Stoker', and Matthew Goode plays charismatically creepy Uncle 'Charles Stoker', but there's simply no argument as to who steals the limelight and it's Mia Wasikowska (Alice In Wonderland, Jane Eyre), as 18 year old 'India Stoker'. The actress is 23 but easily passes for an 18 year old. Her character is the main focus of the film and I feel she was perfectly cast for the role. She's old enough to be sexy, yet young enough looking so you feel a little conflicted about thinking so, and, despite her innocent appearance, has a facial quality that you can believe hides a personality more sinister. The character she plays is deeply intriguing and her acting as a dark, sexually ripe, moody introvert was magnetic and convincing. If it happened to be awards season, I'd say she was in with a chance of some nominations, but then when does subtle acting as a quiet introvert ever get nominations?
It may only be the beginning of March, and there's been a lot of great movies so far in 2013, but I think 'Stoker' is the best film of the year at this point. It's not only the exception to the rule that Asian Director's first English language features are watered down missteps, but it's a film I thoroughly enjoyed and left the cinema genuinely excited about. You know that feeling when you find a movie that you really connect with and you can't wait to tell everyone about it? It's one of the best feelings in the world. Produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, 'Stoker' is an example of Hollywood getting it absolutely right, so please go and support it.
Stoker, celebrated Korean director Chan-wook Park's English-language
debut, is a dark, disturbing and diabolical film about an introspective
young girl named India who witnesses the loss of innocence following
the sudden and untimely death of her beloved father. In Stoker, Park's
fixation for the bizarre and the morbid is once again on full display.
But, he is clearly a bit more cautious than usual. He seems to keep his
characters on a tight leash for a much longer duration, and this makes
the movie's first half appear much slower and less hyper than a typical
Park film. But, once the dust settles down, the viewer is treated to
sheer mastery of Park's craft.
In Stoker, Park pays homage to the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Those who have seen Hitchcock's 1943 thriller Shadow of a Doubt wouldn't find it hard to draw parallels. Park limns a colorful canvas like only he can and his characters tread it like spirits caught in a limbo. While the characters are highly emotional, their strangely selfish actions make it difficult for the viewers to sympathize with them. Chung-hoon Chung's alluring cinematography gives the movie a hypnotic feel. The acting of movie's three lead characters viz. Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, and Matthew Goode is quite brilliant and in that order.
Overall, Stoker is an intriguing work of cinema that despite managing to stoke the fire of curiosity may still leave any keen-eyed, intelligent viewer high and dry. Those accustomed to watching the quintessential Hollywood product are likely to find Stoker very strange and deeply disturbing. But, if you are looking for something different to break your monotonous daily routine then Stoker will surely not disappoint you. 8/10
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Stoker is a psychological thriller that you might not expect. It's not
the usual type of the genre. The storytelling is in pure style and it
features its terror in a completely twisted way. It's a weird cinematic
experience that might stuck in your head for some time. It didn't offer
much new to the plot but it creates a both melancholic and terrifying
atmosphere to the picture which made it fascinating. What's more
fascinating is the filmmaking understands the psychosis beneath it and
it clearly shows them on screen. Stoker is quite peculiar but in a
remarkably stunning way.
The story is just simple but it is told very differently. Thrillers usually slowly builds the tension of the plot until it gets to the point that everything what's happening is not right. Here, it already shows the oddness of their lives. The only thing it does now is to explore what's happening to the characters and what they are going to do. The plot isn't really that complex but it's all rather provocative. It embraces the strangeness that is manipulated from the two Stokers. It's not ought to be scary or anything. It's all about taking the ride on their horrifying acts. These scenes are, without a doubt, bizarre and somehow disturbing.
The film has a set of amazing talents. Mia Wasikowska has always been lovely and talented. She gives a sense of weirdness inside of her innocence which is perfect to the character. Nicole Kidman makes a great desperate mother. Matthew Goode adds some creepy mannerism to the psychotic Uncle Charlie. It's easy to get infatuated by his deceiving charms. The violence is a bit tamed for a Chan-wook Park film, but here, he aims more at the fortitude. He fills them with an impressively energetic style which helps executing its eerie. The gorgeous cinematography captures the melancholia of their world. Everything is just stunning.
The story isn't really that subtle or original but Stoker is a stylishly made film that will give you a quite different experience. Instead of jump scares or whatever tricks that typical thrillers use, the film rather tests the anxiety of the audience in these strange haunting exteriors. The film is not trying to be innovative but the reason why it's interesting is because of its intense use of filmmaking styles. It leaves the clichéd modern thriller plot points for a while and it simply tells the story by exploring these people's little twisted lives. Overall, it's visually captivating despite of the horror underneath the surfaces and that what makes the film so appealing.
This is the first English language film from South Korean director
Chan-Wook Park. He is probably most famous for the intense
psychological thriller Oldboy. With his American debut he reigns in the
extremity somewhat but does retain the visual inventiveness that is
also one of his trademarks. In many ways Stoker is a modern update of
Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943). Like that one, this film
has a mysterious uncle re-emerge into the life of a family after many
years of absence. Before long it becomes pretty clear that all is not
as it seems with this man and he is in fact extremely dangerous. The
main character is an 18 year old girl called India Stoker played by Mia
Wasikowska who was recently in the not very good but very popular Alice
in Wonderland. She leads the film very well and carries off the bookish
character effectively. There is also able support from Nicole Kidman as
The look and feel of Stoker is impressive. The atmosphere is well sustained throughout. If I had a criticism it would simply be that the story ultimately isn't all that original and there aren't really a lot of surprises. What it does do though is to take a fairly standard psychological thriller story and make it interesting by way of cinematic techniques. It isn't a movie that is exactly going to break the mould but it is pretty accomplished nevertheless and is a pretty good first English language feature from its director.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having watched the terrible decline in many areas of movie making over the past 20 years, i think 'Stoker' is a clear example of a movie that is all style and little else. Chan-Wook Park seems to be idolized by the chosen few who seem to think his movies are pure art. Quite where this comes from i have no idea. Take the 'Stoker' storyline; Daddy dies, Uncle appears from his travels, Mummy falls in love with Uncle, Uncle has a crazed sexual longing for his niece, cue over the top killings. Add to all of this a collage of 'so called' cool scenes including the bursting of a foot blister in extreme close up, the spreading of tennis balls on a court, nicely placed boxes of shoes on a bed, an egg being rolled around a table with a weird crunching sound,the daughter dressed in strange 'Meeks Cutoff' movie leftovers,the Uncle who drives a sports car alongside a school bus of screaming girls, the horrendous eating sounds of the daughter at each meal time (maybe something to do with her super hearing) and on and on. A total mess of footage that we are meant to see as 'total Art-house'. Matthew Goode must have laughed his way through this garbage thinking of the paycheck. Nicole Kidman simply did what she has done in many of her previous movies by acting strange. Last but not least, the very over rated Mia Wasikowska who simply plays the oddball and is better known for her unpronounceable name and whiter than white skin. This movie is typical of today's output by directors making a name for themselves with sub standard crap pretending it is art.I have not been so bored since i watched the aforementioned 'Meeks Cutoff'. Straight in with a bullet as one of the worst movies of this decade.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Stoker, a half baked thriller with overly lush visuals about the
infatuation of a young woman with killing and the sudden appearance of
an estranged uncle who apparently shares the same interest.
Rather than being suspenseful, the film turned out to be a patchwork of silly acting, awkward scripting, listless pacing and an incomprehensible choice of narrative structure that is simply unsuited for this kind of film. Someone ought to revisit and study the classics and until such time, apply for a job in the food service industry.
It is obvious from the get-go that the girl and her uncle are psychos, so why limp around aimlessly for two hours getting a point across that couldn't have been made more clear already 10 minutes into the film?
Is having a plot too much to ask these days?
I was privileged enough to view this film at the annual Sundance Film
Festival and I must say it was well worth the time and wait. The cast
itself includes some incredibly talented and experienced names, yet it
is India (Wasikowska) and her raptor-like awareness, that truly sets
the tone for the film when drawing upon the mystery and oddity of
supporting characters who sink deeper into their roles like fangs in
flesh as the film clicks along.
The script itself could be rewritten with more depth and attention to the emotional wealth and strange sway of the characters, for all of them are skilled enough to operate powerfully under the shroud of mystery director Park Chan-Wook erects so flawlessly, yet the film could be much improved in tragic and horrifying value through a more tailored script.
Editing must also be noted, for Chan-Wook's is very engaging in that it utilizes the temporal frequency to link certain events, building upon India's character and the internal struggles of those who surround her, as well as the realization of her uncanny ability to cope with the revelations that come about and fit so frighteningly together.
The audience comes to realize that some mysteries are exclusive only to those who are bound to travel the same blood trail that links generations in infinite conclusion and everlasting despair and a terrible longing and love can be as exclusive in it's own forbidden and lonely way.
The soundtrack is pleasantly surprising and fitting, with a piece from Clint Mansell (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream) and the debut of Emily Wells's "Becomes the Color", which serves to chart India's multifaceted transformation. I strongly recommend this film and highly praise actors Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, and Dermot Mulroney, who all contribute to the initial and lasting allure.
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