Stoker Review

You know that one weird uncle who always manages to make family gatherings even more awkward than they usually are?

Well Oldboy director Park Chan-wook takes this familial flaw and runs with it in his debut Hollywood film Stoker.

We begin rather idyllically, as a young woman runs along what appears to be a deserted field talking about the symbiosis of the wind and her billowing skirt or something.

Fresh faced, innocent and dressed in white, these are classic signs of a girl you can trust, even if the music being played says something completely different.

Turns out this scene is from the not too distant future, and we have to revisit the past in order to make sense of this girl’s monologue.

India Stoker is at the funeral of her father Richard, who’s just died in a mysterious car accident, with her less than grief stricken mother Evelyn.

Perhaps even more mysterious is the sight and sound of a dapper dan of a man gently calling out India’s name during the service.

This is Richard’s younger brother Charlie, whom India has never met before nor even knew existed.

Anyway, being a fashion conscious chappie, Charlie boy is decked out in a warm, summer suit the colour of cream matched perfectly tailored to his sun-kissed skin and twinkly eyes that he hides beneath some familiar dark glasses.

Having been trotting the globe for the past two decades, Charles now feels it’s his brotherly duty to stay with India and Evelyn until they’re more able to deal with the loss of their father and husband.

Naturally, some people move on faster than others and Eve seems positively warm to the idea of having a dashing and well-travelled new man in the house.

India’s altogether less welcoming, though she does appreciate there’s something more to her new Uncle and his starry eyes than most people see.

And the more time Uncle Charlie spends watching over her, the stronger India’s bond to him becomes.

Stoker is one of those modern horror come thriller type films, feeling strangely sinister all the time without ever resorting to the cheap use of either predictable violence or gore to shock your senses.

Though there’s enough of both to keep more die-hard fans of the genre happy.

Beautifully filmed, Chan-wook marries natural scenery with subtle yet stark lighting, building tension through the clever use of sounds and music that perfectly complement what our eyes see.

Mia Wasikowska, that kid who’s alright, is fine as the youngest Stoker of the family, India, but it’s Matthew Goode as the brilliantly creepy Uncle Charlie and Nicole Kidman’s love starved and reluctant mother Evelyn that linger in my mind.

With his matinee idol looks and wardrobe to match in this role, Goode seems like the kind of actor who could quite easily find mainstream success with the right or wrong kind of role, whilst Kidman only seems to get better with age.

There’s one scene where the Australian’s character Evelyn expertly distils why people have children that struck a delicious chord with me, though much of Stoker’s dialogue is of the leading, über cool variety that you’d never likely confuse with a conversation in the real world.

Stoker is almost worth seeing just for the striking way South Korean auteur Chan-wook has put this film together, though I’m not sold on the message I took from its final scenes.

Unless said message is that families are usually pretty fucked up, and that much I already knew.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

March 2013