The Film (5/5)
It is pretty common for a foreign filmmaker to eventually succumb to the allure of directing a Hollywood picture of their very own. Asian film directors have done this for decades, and have varying degrees of success you can look at someone like Ang Lee whose sensibilities have obviously translated well to his American films ,or someone like John Woo whose oddly did not. Stoker is the first American film by Korean auteur Park Chan-Wook who over the last decade has taken the world by storm with his Vengeance trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance) and recent addition to vampire cinema Thirst.
The film opens with the funeral of Richard Stoker, 18 year old India Stoker's Father. At the funeral India's long lost Uncle Charles Stokers surfaces, and immediately integrates himself in the household alongside India and her Mother, Evelyn. Evelyn is immediately taken with the charming Uncle Charlie, but it appears that he has eyes ony for India. She slowly begins to become obsessed too by her Uncle, and the world view he presents.
The visual style seems to blend the sparse spatial minimalism of Lady Vengeance with the operatic camera movements of Oldboy. The performances in the film are across the board thrilling and fantastic. Nicole Kidman is not an actor I pay too much attention to outside of a few choice roles (Eyes Wide Shut for example), but here she is top form. I have only seen Mia Wasikowski in Tim Burton's pseudo-adaptation/sequel to Alice in Wonderland, and obviously that performance did not give a great interpretation of her range as an actor. However, as India Stoker she plays a fully fleshed out part, with extreme depth and emotional range. I am very curious to see what she will bring to Jim Jarmusch's Only Lover's Left Alive. This brings me to Matthew Goode whose Ozymandias was considered a low point of the Watchmen film, but I thought was just fine for the part. His Charles Stoker is equal parts charming and creepy, and is entirely effective all the way through the film. An entirely enthralling performance that mixes anchors and blends with the primary cast.
The films approach tends to be homage both stylistically and plot-wise to the films of Lynch, Hitchcock, and Kubrick. If I had to describe stoker it would be sort of like Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt starring Anthony Perkins directed with a detached cold/emotionless Kubrick style with the atmosphere of David Lynch's stranger films (Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, Eraserhead). The film, of course, is pure Park Chan-Wook, and stands firmly in the man's filmography, and it is exciting for a filmmaker to make the journey to Hollywood and not have their work compromised by the studio system.
Fox has presented Park Chan-Wook's Stoker with an excellent 1080p AVC encoded transfer that preserves the films original aspect ratio. The film simply put looks gorgeous here, and unlike most modern Hollywood films was shot on 35mm film so there is a healthy grain structure present. There is fantastic detail especially in close-ups, accurate flesh tones, and deep black levels.
The audio is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track in English. This track sounds fantastic, and brings out all the aural nuances of the film to life. The dialogue comes through completely clear, as do the films score, and sound FX.
The film has a good number of extras on this disc. The Blu-ray kicks off with a nearly half hour documentary called Stoker: A Filmmaker's Journey that charts the making of the film. We then get 5 short theatrical behind the scenes featurettes on various subjects, these are a bit of fun, but play more like promotional material than anything significant. There is 15 minute of footage from the films red carpet premiere, 10 minutes of deleted scenes, 11 minutes of on set photography, a music video for the song Becomes the Color, a 2 minute piece on a London theater's redecoration to appear like the film. The disc is rounded off by the films trailers.
Stoker is an amazingly executed piece of creepy family melodrama from director Park Chan-Wook. It continues his streak of effective and excellent cinema. The A/V is fantastic on the Blu-ray release, and although limited the extras are a nice addition to the release. Stoker comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.