Horror review: Stoker



Man, that Stoker is one mind messer of a Hitchcockian psycho thriller. It’s such a mind messer that—even as I write this three days after seeing it—I can’t decide if I like it or not.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The movie centres on the weird relationships between recently widowed Evelyn Stoker (Nicole Kidman), her teen daughter, India (Mia Wasikowska), and her dead husband’s younger brother, Charles (Matthew Goode), who shows up unannounced at the funeral and then moves into the palatial Stoker estate. His arrival coincides with India’s sexual awakening, and the erotic tension in the household is palpable—especially since the lonely Ev is also drawn to the charming newcomer.

But there’s something not quite right about Charlie, and the slow-burning script by Wentworth Miller and “contributing writer” Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary) gradually reveals enough skeletons in his closet to fill the mansion’s cobweb-shrouded basement.

Wasikowska shines fearlessly with her portrayal of the dour India, who favours prim dresses and saddle shoes and savours the crinkly sound of hard-boiled eggs crushed against a table. Her oddball approach to life draws the ire of high-school bullies, which leads to some of Stoker’s most disturbing scenes.

Then again, an extreme close-up of dried blood being shaved off a No. 2 pencil is actually quite pretty.

In his first English-language film, South Korean director Chan-wook Park—best known for the extreme “Vengeance Trilogy” and the vampire flick Thirst—mostly eschews gory violence. He brings the darkness by showing a spider scurrying underneath a girl’s skirt, or—most disturbingly—making you imagine a toddler being buried alive.

Sumptuously shot by Park’s long-time cinematographer, Chung-hoon Chung, Stoker is a visually engrossing portrait of upper-class evil and psychosexual suspense that leaves you with a lingering case of the creeps.

I guess I like it after all.

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