Stoker is a 2013 psychological horror film directed by acclaimed South Korean director Park Chan-Wook, following the story of a seemingly benign Charles (Matthew Goode) moving in to live with his niece India (Mia Wasikowska) and her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), the film also stars Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver.
Stokers‘ story works well as a small contained drama with a feeling of a classic old school thriller, with strong, vibrant characters and a distinct feeling of theatricality to everything, brought out especially with Nicole Kidman as Indias’ unstable, mood swinging mother. Kidman straddles the line between Hammy and theatrical but in the end she works well with her character, bringing enthusiasm to the role if nothing else. Everything in the film is heightened and almost feels surreal. And that uneasy, surreal feeling is conveyed effectively by Park Chan-Wook through things like character and cinematography, there’s definitely subtext there to look into and it is hinted at in certain scenes, implying things about characters states of mind for example.
The soundtrack for the film is great, frantic and fast when the scenes are also chaotic and energetic, but also slow and building to match the tension and suspense in some scenes, this works effectively in relation to the performances in the film as well, helped a lot by Wasikowska as India who becomes infatuated with Charles, though she thinks there’s something wrong with him. Indias peers at school however think there’s something wrong with her and she is a bit of a strange child, to an interesting degree as you later find out in the film. Evelyn and Charles relationship is also an interesting part of the film, with scenes hinting at it being sexual which would of course be incest, this uneasy pondering of what is going on also adds to the creepy-ness of the whole situation and Matthew Goode really delivers as Charles.
Goode effortlessly brings poise, charisma likeability as Charles, while hinting at a deeper, darker side to his character and it’s out in the open from the start, with the film marketing this weird uncle and his relationship with his niece and sister, but not quite knowing Charles’ backstory/anything about him like India herself adds to the audiences’ distrust of him. The film is great in being covert and never too obvious in the sense of showing you what you think will happen, e.g. murders or weird rituals, snapping away from the act and leaving you as a viewer you fill in the blanks.
And this works really well as far as psychological thrillers go, the antagonist isn’t a demon or ghost showing itself every 5 minutes but a person who we know next to nothing about, we don’t know what he’s capable of or what he’s really like and he’s living with India and that’s a bit terrifying.
Stoker is an effective, odd thriller with interesting twists and a gripping, engaging plot , it’s well shot and has some great performances but it falls short of being a great thriller due to lack of a more compelling plot.
. Effective in creating, maintaining tension
. Great cinematography, well shot film
. Great soundtrack
. Plot is maybe a bit too on the nose with Charles personality