Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Stoker: Movie Review

Visually telling a horror film with a downplayed story but cinematic pizzazz.

“Stoker” is all about appearance. An elegant exterior covering up insidious actions and motives. The story begins with the death of India Stoker’s father. A somber India mourns at the funeral while her mother livens it up with an interest in Charlie. An uncle India never knew existed. But the film begins with photography, after all it is all about appearance in every possible way. Probably to cover up the lack of story. 2013

Directed by: Chan-wook Park

Screenplay by: Wentworth Miller

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman

India (Mia Wasikowska) is a mysterious girl. She has a preoccupation with death, a loner at school, but the apple of her father’s eye. Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) isn’t even mourning the death of her husband, and the immediate sense of her instability already makes her less interesting. We spend the rest of the film trying to figure out what’s really going on with India and the handsome and stoic Charlie (Matthew Goode). The problem is their issues are fairly obvious and the reveal is so slow that we just start to lose interest after awhile.

However, “Stoker” isn’t about telling a story, it’s about visually presenting the characters and their situations. First we have some brilliant colour choices, not only giving the film a gorgeous appearance, but throwing in colour symbolism to boot. And then we get the lighting effects, continuing to give the film a stunning look and guiding our eyes to where the characters are going – literally and metaphorically. And then we have the placement of the camera. Some angled shots seem weird, but this is accomplished cinematography at its finest. Every shot and every transition is a work of art.

But don’t forget that “Stoker” is a horror film. It has a very methodical set-up, concentrating on the aforementioned aesthetics and allowing us to enjoy the melodic piano score. It’s not your typical horror film. It is more on the side of a psychological thriller but it has its moments of violence and gore. And then there’s the theme. The permeating theme throughout the film is that of love — family love, jealous love, infatuation, sexual love and superficial love. They must mean that sarcastically; these characters are anything but lovely.

Fans of “Stoker” will likely have a refined taste. I think this will appeal to those who appreciate the sensory elements of film, telling a story slowly and perfunctory, and feel like having some violence, gore and other horror elements thrown into an otherwise dysfunctional family drama. A strange mix for a strange film.