Who would have thought that Wentworth Miller (Michael Scofield, the tattooed badass from ‘Prison Break’) would go on to write one of this years best movies?
After submitting ‘Stoker’ under a fake name and getting put on the black list for best unproduced scripts in 2010, some people were anxiously awaiting whether it would ever get made.
Skip to 2012 when director Park Chan-Wook, known for his ‘Vengeance Trilogy’, decided that ‘Stoker’ would be his English-language debut.
Along with a very talented cast, production began in the summer of 2012 for this 99 minute horror thriller.
‘Stoker’ is about a girl called India Stoker (played by Mia Wasikowska) who just lost her dad and is forced to live with her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman). We meet up with them at the funeral of her dad where ,shortly after the proceedings, uncle Charles is introduced. An avid travelling brother to India’s father, Charlie quickly manages to get himself into their lives and home.
It’s not a spoiler when I say that with Charlie’s arrival a lot of mystery follows.
By the way: don’t let its title fool you: Stoker is not about vampires, but I’ll come back to that in a bit.
What it really is though, is quite hard to define. People will call this a thriller or to some extent a horror movie, but its way more than that.
The movie is a detailed look at the relationship that’s building between India and her uncle and while many would say they’d see all the twists coming, that’s really not the point of the story.
Director Chan-Wook is known for having a very keen eye for style and naturally this means that his detractors say he’s all style and no story.
If you connect this fact to the aforementioned story having nothing in the way of huge reveals you’d be excused for thinking that ‘Stoker’ might be a waste of time, but it’s not….no really..it’s NOT.
Saying that the movie was ‘gorgeously shot’ is basically movie nerd slang for ‘I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about but I do want to come across as knowledgeable’. But in this case it’s ever so true.
From the gorgeous opening titles to several key scenes, the frame of the picture, the subtle camera movements, the soundtrack from Clint Mansell, the freedom in which the actors are allowed to act, it’s all just really well executed.
Having said that, it might take a movie scholar or someone with an above average taste of movies to really pinpoint what makes this movie so special on the technical side of things.
The lack of speech is a huge contributor in this.
If I were to make a wild guess, I’d say that roughly 70 percent of the movie is without speech. While I can already hear the collective groan going ‘this is another shitty art movie’ you should really perceive this as an ode to the days of yore.
Wentworth Miller already exclaimed during several interviews that Hitchcock’s ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ was a huge inspiration and not knowing this up front, I already saw lots of ‘Hitchcockian’ influences.
Director Chan-Wook perceives his audience as intelligent and therefor uses the imagery to tell us its story.
Like I said a few paragraphs back, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is about vampires, and until about 70 minutes in, I still thought I was watching a vampire movie.
That’s the brilliance of it, the way the tension builds, the way the characters are portrayed, if you’d reshoot one or two scenes, it would be.
That’s a huge compliment to director Chan-Wook who really knows how to make style and context work together in order to get your mind going.
This might sound like a bunch of pseudo interesting compliments towards the techniques behind the movie and my ability to spot them, but it’s not (totally) true.
‘Stoker’ is just one of those movies.
It plays a lot like an opera, setting its stage, making us think ahead and showing us, instead of having characters telling us, what is happening.
It might not be a movie for everyone, the story is quite limited in scope and the proceedings are slow. But boy oh boy isn’t this a gorgeous piece of work.
While ultimately a bit flawed because of its story execution ‘Stoker’ doesn’t earn a perfect rating.
But in every other term it does. The Hitchcockian style, the tension, the sets, the actors (with a haunting performance by Mia Wasikowska)..everything is just showing a director that’s in total control of his craft.
If you consider yourself a fan of the movies, pick this one up, you might learn a thing or two.