MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
Mia Wasikowska as INDIA STOKER
Nicole Kidman as EVELYN STOKER
Matthew Goode as CHARLES STOKER
Jacki Weaver as GWENDOLYN STOKER
Dermot Mulroney as RICHARD STOKER
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Directed by: Chan-wook Park
BY KEVIN CARR
I’m not a die-hard fan of Asian cinema, but I do appreciate the twisted tales that come from that region. Chan-wook Park is probably best known for his bizarre revenge flick “Oldboy,” which is currently being remade for American audiences by Spike Lee. But while Park has left “Oldboy” behind, similar bizarre themes can be found in his English-language picture “Stoker.”
The story, which was written by actor Wentworth Miller of “Prison Break” fame, is about a teenage girl named India (Mia Wasikowska) who loses her father in a traffic accident. An only child – and a odd one, who is quite possibly mentally unstable – India has trouble coping and begins to resent her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman). Shortly after the funeral, her uncle Charles (Matthew Goode) comes to live with them. As he starts making advances on Evelyn, he also develops a deeper – and potentially dangerous – relationship with India.
As far as storytelling goes, “Stoker” works for what it is. The film was never meant to be fast-paced or normal. It exists in a hyper-reality of nostalgia and anachronisms. India is coming of age, and it’s clear she is mentally disturbed. Her father had been a control rod for her problems, and with him gone, she relies more on her uncle.
There’s some elements of the film that could be considered shocking to some audiences, but they are tame compared to Park’s home world of extreme Korean cinema. But the impact of “Stoker” comes not from the overt storytelling and characters of the film. The real impact of “Stoker” comes from the presentation.
It’s not exactly a horror movie, though it could easily be classified as such. Instead, it’s a twisted family drama with some pretty extreme developments. Touching on taboos of crime, pedophilia and sexuality, “Stoker” can still manage to make an audience uncomfortable… and I feel that was one of Park’s prime directives with this film.
I didn’t love the movie, but I enjoyed experiencing it. From the cinematography to the costume and set design, “Stoker” is meticulously put together. Even if the actual story gets a little soft at times and pulls its punches for the American audience, “Stoker” is worth taking a look at.
Similarly, the music fits in well with the eerie design of the film. So much care is put into the look and feel of the movie that it’s kind of a shame that no one spent more time punching up the script to the point that it could really make an audience squirm.
At the very least, along with great technical elements, “Stoker” has a solid cast. Wasikowska is turning into one hell of an off-kilter independent actress. Nicole Kidman is good enough in the movie, though her face looks as rigid and fixed as a porcelain doll. But the real star of the film is Matthew Goode, who can play such a range, throwing down as the uncle who has so much more going on behind his eyes.
The Blu-ray comes packaged with UltraViolet streaming capabilities. Special features include deleted scenes and image galleries. Other bonus features include the 30-minute behind-the-scenes featurette “An Exclusive Look: A Filmmaker’s Journey,” as well as the shorter featurettes “Mysterious Characters,” “Designing the Look” and “Creating the Music.” Red carpet footage and a performance of Emily Wells’ “Becomes the Color” are also available.