Stoker: It’s All in the Family (Review)

India Stoker (Mia Wasi..Waskikno..Wasizuzu…chick from Alice in Wonderland) is a bit distant since her father passed away on her 18th birthday. Then again, she may have been that way for a long time. Even before her father died, I’m sure she would still have been sullen and not quite there. It is at the funeral where she is introduced to the uncle she never knew she had.  Charlie Stoker (Matthew Goode) is a handsome lad with a cool car, great clothes, and an aura of mystery. This, of course, makes all the girls thinks he sexy.  Seriously ladies, just because a cute guy is staring at you out in the distance somewhere doesn’t automatically mean he’s the quiet, sensitive type.  When people begin disappearing, India starts to become more interested in her uncle, and so does her mother, Evelyn Stoker (Nicole Kidman).

This is when the movie becomes tricky to describe. I can’t tell if events actually happened or if it was all in India’s head.  There  are a few moments where it shows one scene, and then shows it again with something new added in. I kept thinking while watching this that India is just imagining everything, but no that wasn’t it. The story had me interested the whole time, but when it was over.  I found it difficult describing what happened after the first person disappears. It’s clear that the relationship between Evelyn and Charlie, who are siblings-in-law, is strictly sexual, but I’m not so sure about the relationship between India and her uncle. One idea is that Charlie and India are  drawn to each other because they both can see themselves in the other person. Another possibility is that India wants to get closer to Charlie to find out more about her family and late father. Whatever suggestions you come up with is fine.  It’s the incestuous vibe these two characters share that remains very disturbing.

stoker08

There are many beautiful shots, and this is where the movie scores one of its biggest points for me. During the opening credits, the text on-screen moves or changes based on where it was placed. I have seen this done before, but here it works  because it helps set the tone for the rest of the story. I also never thought the image of brushing someone’s hair would look so cool on the big screen, but the way it changes into a different scene is really quite remarkable. The score by Clint Mansell and Phillip Glass is where the second biggest points are earned.  Right from the very first scene, the music is in perfect sync with the visuals, and it’s quite the experience. The problem with a movie that looks this good is that the story and characters end up not being very well developed. Every actor here does a really good job with the material, and Mr. Park gives us some great moments with them.  But since English is not his native language, I kept thinking of that scene from Lost in Translation when Bill Murray was shooting the commercial and all the translator could tell him was to speak “More intensely.”  Maybe that’s why he decided to concentrate more on the look and less on the story but I’m not sure.  I do want to see this again because it left open a lot of unanswered questions.  I can’t completely trash a movie that does that, but  I can’t completely praise it either.

Why is it that when a director from another continent comes to America and makes an English language debut, it’s never as good as the films made in their home country? Some directors, such as Ang Lee, have been successful in making that transition from foreign to English language films without any real trouble, while others such as John Woo have never been able to fully capture the same success with their North American titles as they did with their Asian work. Take a look at Jee-Woon Kim, for example. The man has made tons of great movies in his homeland including The Good, The Bad, and The Weird and I Saw The Devil. These got great reviews from both critics and audiences world wide. He comes to America and brings us The Last Stand. A standard Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle that didn’t get as much praise as his other films did. Now with Stokerwe are getting the English language debut of director Chan-wook park. The man has giving us great films like Oldboy and Thirst, and if you are a fan of those titles because of visuals, you will love this one because the cinematography is breathtaking. However if you are a fan because of the way he tells stories, you may be a bit disappointed with the tale he has woven here.

Overall: 7 out of 10

What did you think of Chan-wook Park’s American debut? Please leave comments below. I now leave you with a cool video from the soundtrack featuring the song “Becomes the Color” by Emily Wells.

Written By The Vern

Yes Hello people. It is I The Vern. Lover of movies, women, and whiskey, but not in that particular order. Besides writing for this site. I help co host The As You Watch podcast and help contribute to the world of films wherever I can.


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the author

Yes Hello people. It is I The Vern. Lover of movies, women, and whiskey, but not in that particular order. Besides writing for this site. I help co host The As You Watch podcast and help contribute to the world of films wherever I can.

  • Nick

    Can’t wait to see this. Nice review, Vern!

  • Great review. I really enjoyed Stoker, I thought it was a proper Hitchcockian thriller with a bit of Asian horror thrown in. It was nothing hugely original but I thought it was handled pretty well.

  • Thank you Nick and Chris for the comments. I like what you said about it being a Hitchcockian thriller, but it almost has the vibe of being a DePalma(who some have said rips off Hitchcock) one as well.

  • Good review! It is indeed very stylish but as you said the story is not quite right. I expected it a bit more twisted.

  • Good review! I honestly have no desire to see this movie, but you make a good case for it. I will always take story over visuals. I was wondering if Park would have a difficult time making a translation into American cinema. Sounds like he did a nice job. I also can’t stand Nicole Kidman, but I’ll probably give the film a chance at some point. Thanks, Vern.

  • Yeah especially after you watch Oldboy. That ending for that was a punch in the gut for me. Still he could have done a lot worse. Thanks for the comment Erik

  • The visuals do help in the telling of the story, but sometimes he chooses that over the story and that sometimes can hurt it. The only person who can use just visuals to tell a story has been Terrence Malick, but he makes visual poems. Not so much movies in my opinion. Thanks for the comment Shane.

  • I’m very excited about it mostly because of the actors and gorgeous/disturbing ambiance but having read the script I think that’s the weakness, not Park’s inability to explain his vision. The script is just not that strong, it has good ideas but it’s so obviously Miller’s first effort.

  • Park has a great vision, but sometimes can’t decide if he should use a cool shot or tell a story. It would be great to see a Park movie that was written by him first and then adapted to English. Thanks for the comment Sati

  • It was a beautiful disaster. Why didn’t India report the dead body? Why is Evelyn hitting on her brother in law seconds after she’s crying at his funeral? Why didn’t Charlie seem surprised that India didn’t know he existed when he had been writing to her for all those years? I could go on and on. It looks great but the script makes absolutely no sense.

  • Beautiful disaster is a really great way to sum up the movie Mark. Thanks for the comments. All of the questions you ask make a lot of sense. But I will answer them in the way I think makes sense to the characters

    1. Why didn’t India report the dead body? I think the ending basically tells you why right there.
    2. Why is Evelyn hitting on her brother in law at her husband’s funeral? I’m guessing the two were hitting on eachother for a long time even before her husband died.
    3. Why didn’t Charlie seem surprised that India didn’t know who he existed? Hmm maybe he was playing that way to get on her good side

  • There are answers to everything that didn’t make sense, but too much of the narrative was left for the audience to decipher. It’s not about interpretation, it’s about people not behaving in a way that people behave…even sociopaths. The screenwriter didn’t take enough responsibility to fashion a coherent story that stood on its own.

    Thanks for the answers though. You give some good ones. I wish you had written the movie. 🙂

  • Your review on this movie’s compelling cinematographic was right on but I must disagree with you that Mr.Chan didn’t successfully woven the story in the movie because he did so subtlety through the use of metaphors. Such as the scene where Charlie offered India the yellow umbrella, yellow in psychology means creating a feeling of frustration and anger, it is also the most attention-getting color; in this case Charlie obviously wanted India’s attention just like how he wanted his oldest brother’s attention when they were little.

    Another big symbolic object was the belt. Notice whenever Charlie killed, he always took off his belt as a sign that he let his inner monster ran loose whereas when India shot Charlie and the cop at the end of the movie, she kept her dad belt on to signify that unlike Charlie, she was a well trained “hunter” instead of a child crying for attention. Remember all the letters that India read from Charlie in her father’s office, one mentioned how much alike Charlie felt India was going to be and that they were one of a kind, she would never be alone and he would always be with her. And because fearing one day it may be true that India could somehow be like Charlie, her father taught her how to hunt at a young age, to teach her and tame the possible desire she might carries.

    In my opinion, every choice and decision that were taken placed in Stoker by each character were well measured, not all were rich but enough to help India and Charlie grew into their own individuals.

    I can go on and on but i think that’s the different between Chan and many other directors, his way of story telling is woven into the finest details as he also said: “I like telling big stories through small, artificially created worlds”; and by the way i think his background in philosophy is also a key element to his way of telling a story, one must analyze and look closely for clue.

    By the way you should read this interview http://koreajoongangdaily.joinsmsn.com/news/article/Article.aspx?aid=2950611

  • The Vern

    Sorry it’s taken me this long to respond to your comment. Thank you very much btw. You do make some valid good points that I will look for when I watch this again. Thank you

  • rich

    i tried to watch this movie twice. first time i fell asleep. second time, i didn’t fall asleep, but i was bored as hell. it was very pretty but should have only been a video instead of a film. it seemed somewhere stuck between going for tongue-in-cheek vs. tongue bitten off. it was like the actors knew an inside joke that i just wasn’t in on. normally, i adore nicole kidman. not so much here. i share your confusion and your commendation on the style. not worth watching.

  • The Vern

    Well I can’t fault you in your opinion. At least you gave the movie a fair chance. Twice to be sure. Oh well. I have the same reaction to Gladiator. I it looks pretty, but every time I try and watch it. I get bored

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