Director: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode
Review Written By: Michael Dalton (Prime Minister)
"We don't need to be friends, we're family"
Stoker is not for everyone and is one of the more twisted and unique films I have seen all year. It is incredibly stylish and symbolic, with the visuals of director Park Chan-wook telling the story just as much if not more than the dialogue and the performances. This is a hauntingly beautiful film, with Park Chan-wook’s camera movement and angles sucking you into the eerie atmosphere of the film. From long tracking shots to hair slowly transitioning into branches on trees and a sequence showing eighteen years worth of shoes, this is one of the more visually arresting films of 2013 so far. Each shot feels meticulously constructed and seems to serve a symbolic or thematic purpose. On a purely visual front, Stoker is a film that film students and film enthusiasts will find a delight to watch. It is consistently inventive and simultaneously off-putting and enticing, right through to the way in which the end credits scroll upwards as opposed to downwards.
Chung Chung-hoon’s cinematography, Nicolas De Toth’s editing and Clint Mansell’s music complement Park Chan-wook’s direction. With this film being a technical and stylish tour de force, yet always at the service and never at the expense of the story it is telling. In fact the visual approach elevates and strengthens what could have been and in many ways still is a simple and silly story. This is a classy horror film that doesn’t use excessive blood or gore in order to unsettle or horrify its audience. It instead seeks to and expertly succeeds in creating a mood and atmosphere that permeates the piece. This does have its violent and sickening moments, however it never feels gratuitous and Park Chan-wook deliciously builds the tension in certain sequences. Furthermore the film’s sound design is crucial in regards to the film’s success. India is said to hear things that others cannot, and the way in which sounds are accentuated and emphasized add to the film’s mood. The sound of blood going through a pencil sharpener and the rumour filled whispers during the father’s funeral particularly come to mind.
However the most important technical element would have to be the production design. The film’s modern mansion is, not to sound too cliché, a character in the film. The sets are impeccably designed, with the film’s setting able to evoke horror despite being an a-typical house when it comes to this genre. Although the film and its setting do play with horror conventions when it comes to what has to be one of the cinema’s creepiest freezers. If this film were to get a production design nomination at the Oscars, it would be an inspired and worthy one.
The screenplay by Wentworth Miller is elegant and pragmatic, with the dialogue eloquently written and strategically placed. This is a mysterious film with many subtle clues that only become apparent on a second viewing and one that comes to a sickening yet satisfying pay-off. The twist in the tale is one I didn’t see coming and this is a film, which will keep you guessing right to the end. Despite its many obvious genre influences and elements that we have seen before, in approach and execution, this is truly an original film.
The trio of performances that lead the film, like the film’s production design and script, are restrained and will therefore lack recognition, yet are hugely important and effective in creating the film’s atmosphere. Mia Wasikowska is a revelation in the lead role and I finally see why she is considered one of the most promising young actresses. She carries this film and perfectly portrays the vulnerability and power of her character. Matthew Goode has perhaps the showiest of the three performances as the menacing uncle of the piece. His charismatic, cultured yet secretly scheming front is a delight to watch. Finally Nicole Kidman perhaps has the weakest character of the three and therefore gives the weakest performance. However towards the end of the film she demonstrates a ruthlessness and edge that was previously lacking.
Ultimately Stoker may be considered by some to be pretentious, ridiculous and sickening. It has a restrained and stylistic approach that some may find patience testing and alienating. However I was sucked into the film’s atmosphere and found myself intoxicated by the style and performances and surprised and sickened by the story. Unlike anything else I’ve seen this year and perhaps the first film of 2013 to truly surprise me, Stoker is a must-watch for horror fans who like their scares on the more symbolic and suggestive side.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
Disagree with this review? Give us your thoughts in the comments below.