Dave White
Stoker Review

Dave's Rating:


Served cold.

Some movies aren't meant to be loved. You're allowed to worship their beautiful surfaces and stare wonderingly at the highly stylized characters, you're encouraged to remove yourself and observe from a safe distance, regarding the facsimiles of humanity on screen in the same way you'd approach a carefully chosen sofa fabric that isn't to your liking. When it's over, you walk out of the theater and say, "I'd live in that house. Just not with those people."

In other words welcome to the Stoker family. Dad (Dermott Mulroney) is dead and his shrouded-in-questions demise coincides with his daughter India's (Mia Waskikowska) 18th birthday. This affects India, but not too much; she's already kind of a ghost-teen, sullenly collecting dead birds she's hunted and allowing spiders to crawl up her legs. Then long-absent Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) shows up for the funeral just in time to have an affair with India's mother, a female-shaped block of ice named Evie (Nicole Kidman, once again choosing a role that actually calls for her face to remain immobile).

Charlie's arrival also coincides with the appearance and subsequent disappearance of other, warmer and reasonably concerned family members like Silver Linings Playbook's Jacki Weaver. And this bothers India only to the extent that her resolutely controlled rage is now given a place to land. Will she join Charlie in whatever evil he's got going behind the scenes? Will she seduce him to spite Mom? Will she take the lessons learned from her late hunter/marksman father and jump-start her own evil existence? Or is she simply destined to be another victim?

Director Park Chan-wook, who gave us the astonishing revenge masterpiece Oldboy, hasn't forgotten his recent past as the Korean bad-ass of doom-thrillers, but he's filtering it through an intricately choreographed homage to Alfred Hitchcock and turning emptiness into mood, then into sexual tension (perfectly accentuated by the soundtrack's repeated use of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood's baroque, mysterious "Summer Wine"), then into creepy murderous action and back to empty mood again, but only when he feels like it. None of this is happening on your schedule.

The sometimes maddening action/inaction takes its time and keeps you wondering who's going to come out alive at the end of it all, even though you suspect nobody's walking away from this creepshow happily. "Dad taught me to wait in silence," says India in one of the film's explanatory moments. Park wants you to do the same. You'll get what he gives you and if you don't like it you can just leave.


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