Park Chan-wook’s ‘Stoker’ takes you on a creepy, stunning journey

01stoker1.rWhen you hear the title “Stoker,” it’s normal for your mind to automatically spring to vampires. However, if you’re expecting a tale about the bloodsucking creature, you’ll find yourself to be somewhat mistaken. You see, “Stoker” is indeed a vampire movie…just minus the actual vampires. The movie begins with a somber start: we find out that India’s (Mia Wasikowska) father has just passed away in a terrible auto accident on her 18th birthday. When we meet India, right off the bat it’s evident that she’s not your average teenage girl. She’s the kind of dark and sullen teen that dresses as if she was plucked out of the Victorian era; the kind of girl who remains completely unfazed as she watches a spider slowly crawl up her leg.

At the funeral, a family member India never even knew existed shows up: the mysterious Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode). As quickly as he appeared, the man starts charming both India and her unstable mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), who invites him to come live with them in their big Connecticut home. But despite his charming façade, it doesn’t take India long to realize there’s something much darker brewing beneath his surface.

Perversely intoxicating, “Stoker” isn’t for the faint of heart — and it certainly isn’t scared to explore daring topics. Penned by Wentworth Miller (best known as the star of TV’s “Prison Break”), this a story that sort of creeps up on you; you may go in thinking you know too much about the plot, but as the story slowly unfolds, you find topics you may not have been prepared to confront — like an exploration of the nature of evil, as well as a focus on India’s sexual awakening. While Kidman is the film’s biggest name, as a character she comes off as more of an afterthought. The real stars here are Wasikowska and Goode. Goode’s Uncle Charlie is suave, charming, attractive…and more than just a hint menacing. And that’s where he most soars in the role. There’s something noticeably off about him, yet it’s not difficult to understand why these two women are so drawn to him that they blindly invite him into their lives. He may not have fangs and a penchant for drinking blood, but those are just about the only characteristics that set him apart from a vampire.

“Stoker” is a slow burn, but the end result is all the more effective because of it. This is a film that heightens your senses; every noise is deliberate and intensified —- such as the sound of the shell being cracked off a hardboiled egg or the sound of a pencil being shaved. It’s visual antics are the same, and they happen to be the most rewarding aspect of this haunting journey. The film is so imaginatively shot, that each individual frame functions as part of this gorgeous visual puzzle. It may not all make immediate sense logically, but that’s not what this film is about; it’s so rich visually and thematically that if you’re honing in on plot holes and inconsistencies, then you’re not opening yourself to the full picture. And what a sumptuous, unforgettable picture it is. Rating: B+

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