Stoker Review

The Plot:

Following the sudden death of her father a troubled young girl living with her unstable mother suspects the mysterious uncle she never knew existed may have sinister ulterior motives when he arrives unexpectedly to move in.

The Good:

Korean director Chan-wook Park  is responsible for notorious Asian cinema efforts like Sympathy for Mr Vengeance and Oldboy; with Stoker he makes his English language debut with a film equally loaded with brooding violence and dark psychological tensions. The film’s elegant cinematography and visual beauty are a stark contrast but fitting compliment to the story’s emotional core of seductive evil.

Mia Wasikowska is on absolutely scintillating form as India, a young girl haunted by both dark suspicions and demons of her own.  The film’s provocative tagline is ‘innocence ends’ and her willing fall from grace as her infatuation with the mysterious Uncle Charlie grows is disturbingly fascinating. The young Australian actress is commendably uninhibited in a performance that doesn’t shy away from the most challenging aspects of psycho-sexual drama. She treads a fine line between victim and villain with intelligent poise and emotional precision.

British actor Matthew Goode likewise delivers an unflinching wide eyed performance as Uncle Charlie that is equally sinister and ruthlessly charismatic. He has a looming presence that is calculating, evil and yet believably seductive. The film uses his obvious incestuous charms to violently obliterate the boundaries of social and sexual taboos.

Perhaps the film’s most memorable character is actually its soundtrack. India claims to have superhuman hearing and magnifying the sound of an eggshell cracking or a throat nervously swallowing out of all proportion really does have a devastating effect on your sense of wellbeing. These intimate well-chosen noises heighten an already palpable sense of suspense, injecting sudden bursts of danger and fearful adrenalin.

The Bad:

Whilst Stoker is remarkably well composed and utterly effective at deliberately unnerving an audience, obviously not everyone will enjoy that experience. The film pushes well past the comparably safe territory of typical family melodrama and uncomfortably pokes around the darkest corners of unspeakable intimate fears.

Not everyone will welcome the films nightmarish descent into incestuous sexualized violence. But to be fair, anyone expecting escapist entertainment or emotional comfort from a Chan-wook Park film is either misguided or ill-informed. The film accomplishes precisely what it intendeds to, regardless of the damage it does to more sensitive souls.

The Ugly Truth:

Stoker is another magnificently visceral and unforgettable film from Director Chan-wook Park. His unique twisted genius has clearly lost nothing in translation for his first English language film. Powerful performances from a brave cast combined with deft use of unnerving sound and lush imagery will leave audiences satisfyingly shell-shocked.  Though admittedly, more squeamish fans may find the more grisly and horrific aspects of the story hard to recover from. Stoker is a brilliant disturbing film, provided your faint heart can handle it.

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