‘Stoker’ couples fine acting with directorial flourishes

Hollywood Soapbox logoStoker is an unsettling and yet satisfying film from director Chan-wook Park. Starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode and Mia Wasikowska, the horror tale takes a few pages from the Tim Burton playbook and adds in some Alfred Hitchcock for good measure. Fans of suspense and original horror movies should be engaged for the 100-minute feature.

When the film opens, India (Wasikowska) is mourning the loss of her father and dealing with the presence of her strange mother, Evelyn (Kidman). They don’t like each other and obviously had a rivalry over the common man in their lives. Enter Charles Stoker, India’s uncle, who has arrived to help the family during this difficult time.

It becomes quite obvious that Charles and Evelyn have alternate plans, and it’s up to India to play detective and find out what’s going on.

Stoker walks a fine balance between horror and romance. At times, it feels as if two characters will kill each other in three seconds, and instead they embrace. Finding out the true motives of the players involved is what makes the film somewhat fun and inventive.

Park’s direction is expertly handled; watch how he bleeds each scene into the next, which is a credit to both his personal directorial style and the work of his editing team. The “look” of the film is layered and intricate, bordering on brilliant.

The acting elevates the tale to a respectable level. Kidman plays against type and offers an evil, cunning portrait that unsettles the viewer and begs for further introspection. Ditto to Goode, someone who can offer charm and deceit in the same smile. Wasikowska, arguably one of the finest young actors working today, is the star of the film. Her India is complex and dark, and Stoker proves to be her coming-of-age story. Although there are many horror-filled moments and thrilling turns of the screw, the action is largely centered around a simple concept: a daughter grieving the death of her father.

Stoker didn’t make a large splash at the box office, and all of the actors involved have other well-known movies. But it’s one to consider for a late-night viewing. Park’s direction is so memorable and unique that it’s easy to forget everything and everyone else. Simply watching Stoker for its visuals can be transfixing, and that’s saying something for a film that thrives on odd plot twists and passages into dark, dark corners.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Stoker

  • 2013

  • Directed by Chan-wook Park

  • Written by Wentworth Miller

  • Starring Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode

  • Running time: 100 minutes

  • Rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content

  • Rating: ★★★½

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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