Stoker (2013) – Film Review

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Director: Park Chan-Wook
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska
, Matthew Goode
Certificate: 18

by Dan Berlinka

Park Chan-Wook’s first English language film, Stoker, is a delicate blend of new-American Gothic and Hitchcock suspense.The geographical terrain may be new, but the haunting, dreamlike tone of the acclaimed ‘Vengeance’ trilogy continues. This is Prison Break hunk Wentworth Miller’s first feature script. The script reportedly did the rounds under a pseudonym before making its way onto the 2010 Black List of best unproduced screenplays. The cinematography is beautiful. It captures small details with an eye that’s almost fetishistic. It never becomes over-stylised.

The three lead performances are all pretty much note perfect. Mia Wasikowska captures the intensity of a teenager who is not yet fully in control of the body that is growing around her. Nevertheless she is starting to sense its power. Nicole Kidman’s slightly preternatural looking face underscores the brittleness of the fragile mother. Matthew Goode wears his charm with the same studied casualness as his preppy clothes, but with eyes that never quite match his easy-going smile.

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“Much schlockier film lurking beneath”

Nonetheless, despite these many fine qualities, it’s a bit of a slow starter. It’s almost as if a surfeit of good taste is holding back the lurid events of the more entertaining second half. At times it feels like there’s a much schlockier film lurking beneath all the artistry. Stoker contains all the tropes of a movie from the nineties ‘from hell’ cycle. Frankly, I would welcome a deeper and earlier commitment to those genre elements.

Still, there’s more than enough beauty and intrigue up on the screen to put this combination of arthouse and psychological thriller high up on your “to see” list.


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