Film, 2013

I was a little apprehensive about Stoker going in, only really being a fan of one of the three movies by the director that I had seen previously (loved Lady Vengeance, was indifferent toward Oldboy, and hated Thirst). At first I found it difficult to stomach Chan-wook’s visual poetry and glassy-eyed melodrama. This could be due to the fact that I might not be as open to that style when presented in English. And while that’s on me, the problem was exacerbated by the performance of the lead actress, often a dead fish, and by Kidman playing it a little too artificially. But once the fluff started to become weighted by the evolving mystery, I was enthralled by the proceedings, hook, line, and sinker. And as with any Chan-wook film, there’s no shortage of carefully orchestrated, effective sequences and moments. There was a bit of sound design where India drinks a glass of wine that really took my breath away, the montage where she rejects Uncle Charlie’s offers of assistance was a welcome bout of levity, and the sequence centered around Philip Glass’s stunning duet really does the piece justice. The movie ultimately draws its power from showing us ghoulish monsters, every bit as unnerving as vampires or ghosts, presented as mere humans.

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