Review: Stoker is a beautifully twisted tale of murder

Park Chan-wook makes his English-language directorial debut with Stoker, a beautifully twisted tale of murder that echoes Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. After India’s father dies, her Uncle Charlie, who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her unstable mother. She comes to suspect this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives and becomes increasingly infatuated with him.

Stoker is a fantastic English film debut from the South Korean director as he crafted a tension filled murder mystery with plenty Hitchcockian flair. Stoker is an old soul and a breath of fresh air as its story is told slowly and deliberately.  It’s a slow-burn in every sense of the word but it doesn’t always feel like one because the film moves graciously from scene to scene. Some of the best horror films are of the slow-burn variety because if done right, they can be very rewarding – and Stoker is exactly that.

The film crawls along at a comfortable pace before finally taking a nasty turn where it crawls under your skin and stays there. Wentworth Miller, the architect behind the script has cited Bram Stoker’s Dracula as an influence and obvious source for the title of the film. While there’s no vampires or the sucking of any blood, it’s definitely heavy on the Gothic atmosphere so I’m assuming that’s where the initial vampire mix up came from when we first heard about the film. Stoker’s more obvious influence is Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, which has an Uncle Charlie of its own. It’s almost a remake of that film except this one is a much more dark and twisted take on the subject.

While all the actors did a fine job and were all strong enough to carry a scene on their own, the one who stood out the most was Uncle Charlie himself, Matthew Goode. He poured on the charm with a devilish grin. You wanted to trust him but you knew you couldn’t, which was truly his most terrifying characteristic.  When everyone’s true colors are revealed and they are no longer wearing their fake smiles, it’s an amazing moment in the film and shows you just how powerful each of their performances are.

The thing about Stoker is this; it’s not some over-the-top horror flick that’s going to leave your jaw on the floor with its blood and gore. Most of the violence you see in the film is left more to your imagination as it happens off screen. It’s a visually stunning murder mystery led by some amazing performances. It’s a classic horror story told by a master filmmaker who weaves a slow burning tale deep into the skin of its audience. Supposedly Park Chan-wook intended Stoker to be the first of a trilogy and if this is a sign of things to come, then I’d say to buckle up kiddies because things are about to get nasty.

4.5/5

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If you are ever attacked by a gorilla just sit back and relax while you enjoy the once in a life time feeling of your limbs being ripped off.

25 thoughts on “Review: Stoker is a beautifully twisted tale of murder

    1. Thanks man! I started having more and more people asking me what I thought about certain movies so I figured I’d start doing them. Still learning the ropes but I’m starting to get the hang of them! Stoker seems like a flick you’d really appreciate man, looking forward to your thoughts on it.

  1. Definitely agree with the review! I can also understand where the mix up with vampires comes in. The film definitely could lead you to think that was what it is about at times. Ready for the next in the trilogy!

    1. Thanks man! Exactly right. This one would have made the Master of Horror smile had he gotten a chance to see it I’m sure. You’re right though, it’s a much darker take on Hitchcock’s style but it makes me wonder just how much more twisted this one could have been had he been working in Korea under his usual crew. Great movie though, I really enjoyed it!

  2. Well done again! My review for this comes out tomorrow but I think you got it perfectly. This film was such a nice surprise, Park Chan-wook kicks ass and I’m looking forward to his next ‘Western’ project.

    1. Thanks! Looking forward to your review. Park Chan-wook is, in my opinion, one of our greatest living directors. He’s got an amazing visual style. I wonder how this would have turned out under his usual Korean crew and not under the American restraints? You said it perfectly though, it was a great surprise! Easily one of my favs of the year so far.

  3. Solid review Ryan. It defies convention in some areas, and is just plain odd in others. However, it’s always a fun movie and allowed me to enjoy myself, while also offering something new and original with the thriller genre.

    1. That’s a great explanation man. It’s one of those movies that you just have to let take you on its ride and enjoy it for what it is. Glad you dug it man and thanks for stopping by!

  4. I don’t know whether i should thank you for learning me a new word (ulterior) or curse you for making life more complicated… Oh! I know! I just wish you a great weekend!

  5. I’ve read a few reviews of this, I think I’m the only one that gave it a negative one…really not for me.
    Great review though 🙂

    1. Thanks Natasha. It’s definitely not a film for everyone and it’s certainly not your typical “horror” film either. Thanks for stopping by. Appreciate the comment!

  6. Great review! I think you really hit the nail on the head with your description of Uncle Charlie, and how you “wanted to trust him, but knew you couldn’t”. Nice job.

    1. Thanks Kalyn. Yea, I thought he did an amazing job and really stood out from the rest of the cast. Colin Firth was originally attached which would have been interesting but I’m glad it went to Goode. He was fantastic!

  7. uncle Charlie’s eyes and killer smile makes u feel creepy but u can’t stop staring, can’t wait to see this one… Ryan great job, am looking towards ur future reviews.

  8. I saw this quite a while ago and enjoyed it, but for some reason I can’t remember (not very helpful, I know) I thought it didn’t quite come together as well as it could.
    That said, I thought it was a really good English-language debut for Park Chan-wook. Switching languages sometimes entails switching cultural sensibilities, and this is what’s much more likely to get lost in translation (for prime examples, watch The Ring Two, Dark Water, and The Grudge, and ask yourself what’s with all the water), but that’s not a problem here. Also, the first time I really noticed Matthew Goode was in the trailers for the rom-com Leap Year, so like you, I was really blown away by him here. Wasikowska is always great and Kidman is at her best here.
    Nicely written review!

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