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Stoker: BD Review

Jul 12th, 2013

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This Gothic thriller isn't air-tight, but there's more than enough crazy on hand here to make for a fun rental....

Fox / 99 Minutes / 2013 / Rated R / Street Date: June 18, 2013

All is not well in the land of Stoker. Our crazy is most intensely humanized in the form of the pretty young India (Mia Wasikowska), a Gothic, introspective type who is as brooding as they come. But even if this Anne Rice caricature seems preternaturally troubled, it turns out there are other elements of the narrative universe of this Park Chan-wook melodrama that trump her mute obsessions.

First, there’s a car crash. Poor Richard (Dermot Mulroney) meets a fiery end, and the family he leaves behind all carry significant suspicions. There’s Evie (Nicole Kidman), a cold, detached woman who seems uncouthly interested in trading the amorous intents of her late husband for those of his brother Charlie (Matthew Goode). Throw Richard’s daughter India into the mix, and you have a Douglas Sirk family circus that gets crazy complicated right out of the gate.

Oh, and Charlie is a serial killer – there’s that. Death, emptiness, and family issues find their way into every nook and cranny of Stoker: it’s like Rebecca with an even moodier and psychotic undercurrent to it. But even if Stoker has a certain formal charm to it (if anything, the movie comes with a steely, beautiful look), there’s just too much at hand here to be dramatically palatable. Park Chan-wook throws everything but the kitchen sink into this creepy-ass weepie, and the results are over-the-top on all fronts.

Yet somehow Stoker remains implicitly watchable throughout. I hate to bring Anne Rice up again, but just as some of her vampire novels are as inane as they are enjoyable, this Gothic drama is impossible to defend but it provides rampant camp fun. Kidman especially digs into her part with affluent zeal, and her enthusiasm is contagious. Stoker as a movie is thin and narratively mangled, but the world it invokes is alluringly escapist. 

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