Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Stoker | Matthew Goode, Dermot Mulroney, Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, Jacki Weaver | Review

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3sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is MEDIOCRE Judy Thorburn


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3lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is MEDIOCRE


Korean director Park Chan-wook’s (2003's Old Boy) first English-language film has nothing to do with Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, although there are a few similarities between Stoker's creation and the filmmaker's latest work.  Both involve a dark and mysterious character with evil intentions.

Stoker is the surname of the dysfunctional family inhabiting screenwriter/actor Wentworth Miller's (best know for starring in TV's Prison Break) creepy and disturbing, Hitchcock-like psychological thriller that boasts an excellent cast.

After the death of Richard Stoker (Dermot Mulroney, seen in flashbacks) in a tragic car accident, his younger brother, Charlie (a chilling Matthew Goode, A Single Man) shows up out of the blue and moves in with Richard's icy, emotionally unstable widow, Evie (Nicole Kidman) and their sullen, teenage daughter India (a dark haired Mia Wasikowska,  Alice in Wonderland), an introverted loner that doesn't like being touched.  India appears estranged from her mother, but was very close to her dad and best friend who taught her how to hunt. When it came to killing animals, her father had told her “Sometimes you have to do something bad so you don't do something worse”.  Hmmm.

Back to the present.  Up until the funeral, both women had never met Charlie, a stranger in their midst. Yet, Evie allows him to settle in and make himself at home on their secluded countryside estate in Connecticut. Almost immediately, it is clear something is not right with this handsome fellow, whose steel eyed glances and odd intense manner are the first clues of something sinister brewing within. Right off, that should signal a red flag to beware of danger ahead.  

At first, India appears standoffish, keeping a cool distance from her uncle.  Meanwhile, Charlie starts hitting on Evie, who relishes the attention and welcomes his sexual advances. But,  it doesn't take too long before India also succumbs to his spell and begins to develop a weird bond with the uncle she never knew existed before his arrival.  In the opening voice over narration India states, “To become adult is to become free.”  The question is, how does Charlie figure into her scenario? Did her Dad know something about her bloodlines that could potentially lead her down a horrific path?

As this slow burning story unfolds some terrible things begin to happen. Several people, including the family’s long-time housekeeper (Phyllis Somerville) and Aunt Gwen (Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook) disappear. Eventually, dark family secrets are revealed involving jealously, betrayal, and murder.

Although beautifully photographed by cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung, Stoker delivers more style than substance.  The director is intent on keeping the audience off balance with provocative camera shots such as a spider crawling up India's leg (what's that all about?), a sexually charged piano duet, and background images on a motel TV showing animal predators in action. Any similarities between predatory animals and human beings, and the hunter and its prey, are intentionally brought to mind.

Simply put, Stoker is one of those thrillers thick with atmosphere, tension and mood featuring monstrous humans engaging in shockingly graphic, brutal violence and bloodshed. No bones about it, this is a very unsettling, film that will definitely linger in your mind, but unfortunately, not in a good way.