johnlink ranks STOKER (2013)

Somewhere on the interwebs I saw this referred to as the best horror movie of 2013. That is reason enough for me to give it a go.. Good cast, interesting filmmakers, unique story. How good is it?


I watched STOKER (2013) on 1.31.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

In the most academic possible way I propose the following query: What the fuck did I just watch?

STOKER. I thought I knew where it was going through the first act based on the genealogy the title seems to imply. Turns out, this is a red herring. The filmseemed to be headed towards an overrated monster story though its first act. Yet the further it dragged on, the further its characters were developed, the more unique it became.

India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) just lost her father (Dermot Mulromey) to a terrible accident. Her mother (Nicole Kidman) was never a particularly good parent. They would be alone, save for the fact that long lost Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) has returned. Mom’s seemingly unhealthy infatuation with Charlie leads to an extended stay.

Non-linear editing helps aid this movie in its supernatural set up. Charlie haunts the home, appearing and disappearing at times. The title invokes a particular hypothesis. Yet the truth is somewhere else. This film deserves credit for setting up expectations and then shattering them.

The characters act in a human and unpredictable manner. An appalling act upon India leads to a shower which yields unexpected results. A mother pushed to the edge proves surprisingly resilient and sacrificial (these ambiguities are necessary as a means to avoid ruining plot).

The film’s opening seems innocuous. The closing proves otherwise. What has become of India? It is hard to say. Self preservation is certainly paramount. Is there something more sinister there? Probably. It can be intuited as sinister, though a survivalist reading would be valid as well.

The visuals are beautiful. What seems style over substance in the first half become more powerful in the second. This credit seems mostly to go to editor Nicolas De Toth, who manages to blend the shots wonderfully. Director Chan-wook Park has a vision, to be sure (the imagery is absolutely Eastern in its metaphorical nature), but the editing ties it together beautiful. Dissolves and mattes and jumps work to great effect.

The last thirty minutes of this movie are really tough. Nothing too gory, nothing too explicitly violent. Yet the psychological journey is a particularly brutal one. Was India predisposed to become what she does? It’s hard to say for sure. The family dynamics are such that nurture could certainly be at fault. Yet there is a strong argument to be made that what happens is merely in her nature. I’m just going to stop now, because I already feel like I’m giving too much away.

This is an interesting film, one worth hunting down, one not easily forgotten. It demands a second viewing, though I’m not sure how much I want to go back.



The editing gets a bonus point here for beautifully skipping us through the landscape of this film.



~ by johnlink00 on February 1, 2014.

7 Responses to “johnlink ranks STOKER (2013)”

  1. Good review. Your opening question is one I shared. It took me a while to formulate my thoughts on this one.

    In the end, I don’t think I liked it quite as much as you, but I agree it has its merits, three strong central performances being the biggest of them.

  2. Nice review. I wanted to like this more than I did… But it was a lovely film to look at. 🙂

  3. Nice review John. It’s a very strange movie, but given that we don’t get many thrillers done this way, I was happy. Could have loosened itself up a bit, but hey, that’s just me nit-picking.

    • Thanks! Yeah, there is a place on the shelf for a movie like this, no doubt. It’s lack of humor and levity probably makes it one not worth watching repeatedly.

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