Everyone loves a bit of mystery and intrigue. But what happens when intrigue turns into obsession, and mystery becomes fatal? In the reminiscently Hitchcockian film Stoker, director Chan-Wook Park (Oldboy) creates a world of deadly secrets that can be uncomfortable to watch, but too riveting to turn away from. It sucks you in with its demented beauty and is twisted in the most entertaining way. The cinematography and stylistic editing – along with the sound – greatly add to the horrifying mood of this gothic film that deals with delicate family balance, murder, and incest.
On her 18th birthday, India Stoker’s (Mia Wasikowska) father dies in a car crash. This already-disturbed girl, who lets spiders crawl uninterrupted up her leg, was very close with her father (Dermot Mulroney) and doesn’t much care for her mother (Nicole Kidman). At his funeral, she meets a mysterious, beautiful man, who turns out to be her uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode); an uncle she never knew existed until today. While they are mourning their loss, Charlie moves into the Stoker home with India and her unstable mother. Both women find him intriguing and both are drawn in by his charms. When India starts to notice that her uncle may have ulterior motives for moving in to his deceased brother’s home, this only draws her deeper in. Something may be off with Charlie, but the audience can easily sense that something may be off with India as well. As the relationships between Charlie, India, and her mother grow, it seems that anyone who tries to break in does so at their own peril. No one can – or should – try to get in the middle of their bonds.
Mia Wasikowska does a great job finding the inner darkness in India Stoker. Her young naïveté offsets the disturbed woman she longs to be. Nicole Kidman is icier than ever as India’s cold and detached mother. But Matthew Goode is the perfect sociopath. He employs a charming smile, but holds his twisted nature in his gaze. He is the perfect mysterious man with more than his fair share of secrets. You can’t help but be drawn in by him, while also being afraid of him. Dermot Mulroney. Jacki Weaver, and Phyllis Somerville all do good work with their small parts.
The script, well written and containing a few twists, was written by Wenworth Miller (who starred on tv’s Prison Break.) However, it is Park’s masterful cinematic eye that really makes the movie. There are shots that are simply stunning – and also deeply disturbing. He’s not afraid to allow silence and stillness to speak for itself. He uses techniques that are breathtaking, and the visual images he creates stay with you after the movie is over. Some scene transitions are art in themselves. It is the stylistic manner in which Park treats the film that makes it so special – and so disturbing.