I was keen to see Stoker as it was directed by the man behind Oldboy, a cult favourite revenge film (it is rated 20th in my top 50 films of all time!). However Stoker may be directed by Chan-Wook Park, it is acted by Americans and set in America. Don’t be alarmed though, it still contains all of his trademarks of grim atmosphere, violence and mystery.
The film follows an intelligent, impressionable but sheltered eighteen year old girl India Stoker after her father has died. Her mother (played by Nicole Kidman) bottles her emotions and tries to lose herself in the company of her late husband’s brother who is visiting their home. The girl does not trust her uncle, who has appeared out of the blue… and is seducing her mother. But there is even more to his mysterious past, and it all revolves around India.
Stoker is a moody, atmospheric piece as much as it is violent. The colours are muted; their house at times feels stark and cold, even clothes are pallid and ghostly. The first half of the movie is slow as it plays to the girl’s natural instinct of listening and observing rather than talking or reacting; it is a quiet, often morbid affair.
However, when the characters and their motives begin to align and shady histories are revealed (not unlike Oldboy‘s eye-opening finale) the film avalanches into a dangerous cycle of murder and innocence slowly being destroyed.
Did I like it though…? I wouldn’t say it was a film worthy of a cinema trip; the start did drag and it probably isn’t for the faint of heart. I also missed the more surreal aspects that Oldboy included, Stoker feels somewhat safer (don’t misunderstand though, it is still unpleasant!) there was one gorgeous transition mid-way through that I loved. I enjoyed it for the unravelling of mysteries and to see where these characters’ (especially India’s) moralities will take them.
It is a quiet, moody dive into the mind of a killer.
Additional Marshmallows: It is obvious that some of the film industry’s bad habits have scarred me; seeing only the title of this made me think it would be a biopic of Bram Stoker….