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South Korean writer/director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) helms this dark psychological thriller with a Western cast. Dark, enigmatic, and sensual, the film walks a fine line between Gothic horror and seduction.
At the center of the story is eighteen-year-old India Stoker(Mia Wasikowska; Lawless; Albert Nobbs). After her father dies, India’s uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), whom she never knew existed, arrives at the funeral. Charlie moves in with India and her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman; Rabbit Hole; Cold Mountain; The Hours; The Others), inserting himself into their lives. Charlie makes what is already a strained relationship between mother and daughter even more confrontational, especially when India suspects that her mother is having an affair with her newfound uncle. But for India, there is also a fascination with Uncle Charlie, although she won’t admit it. She suspects something terrible about Charlie, and it fascinates her – sexually. For what it’s worth, Charlie seems single-mindedly set on winning over India’s affections as well.
Park brings a marvelous visual style to this darkly skewing psycho-sexual drama and, despite the cultural differences between East and West, the Korean director overcomes any disadvantage to direct this cast of mostly Brits to superlative performances. Mia Wasikowska is the second coming of Nabokov’s Lolita, for a new age, a new generation. Her portrayal of India keeps us on our toes and guessing at every moment what exactly it is she is seeking. Matthew Goode channels Anthony Perkins in Psycho – devious, cunning, seductive, and dangerous.
Mostly, it’s the mystery and forbidden seduction combined with the Southern Gothic visual flare at the heart of Stoker that keeps us captivated. Park effectively uses the lens to deliver picturesque scenes that seamlessly transition between the present and dream. One such moment finds India on her bed, each of her shoes in boxes around her showing her growth from child to woman in time-lapse like a painting. The seduction between estranged uncle and niece takes place, often, in this dreamlike state where we are never sure if it is reality, or solely in the mind of India.
These things make for a beautiful, engaging film, aided by the strength of their actors and the spot-on direction and superlative cinematography of Chung Chung-hoon.
The Super 35 source format, here transferred in an AVC/MPEG-4 1080p24 encodement from Fox, looks clean, crisp, and sharp. There’s a thin layer of grain, with only a few scenes here and there where the grain jumps and a slight bit of noise can be spotted as well. Otherwise, it’s a consistent image with nuanced lighting, inky blacks and spot on flesh tones.
Stoker arrives with a surprisingly atmospheric English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) audio track that picks up lots of subtle details, has strong dynamic range without ever getting extremely loud, and has a wonderful balance between foley effects and the score. Dialogue is also clear and full.
A full slate of production and pre-production featurettes, plus promotional material is included.
- Deleted Scenes (2.35:1; 1080p/24; 00:10:01)
- Stoker: A Filmmaker’s Journey (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:27:50)
- Photography by Mary Ellen Mark (1080p/24)
- London Theatre Design (1080p/24)
- Theatrical Behind the Scenes (1080p/24):
- The Making of The International Limited Edition Poster
- Mysterious Characters
- Director’s Vision
- Designing the Look
- Creating the Music
- Red Carpet Premiere (1080p/24):
- Red Carpet Footage
- “Becomes the Color” by Emily Wells Performance
- Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots (1080p/24)
The Definitive Word
Park Chan-wook takes more than a different stylistic turn with this marvelous dark drama in Stoker. Given the taboo subject matters, it may not be for everyone, but it is certainly a brilliant bit of filmmaking and the twist at the end, one which I guarantee you won’t see coming, makes the film on the whole even better.
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