Over a month has passed since I wrote my last movie review and it’s the first one this year so obviously this is a very special post. So for a special post I have chosen a special movie and when I say this, I mean that Stoker is very special because ever since I watched it I have had this weird feeling that it somehow crawled under my skin or something. And when somebody said to me that they didn’t like Stoker because it bothered them it hit me, Stoker is disturbing and weird, and that is why I loved it!
Before I get into the actual review of Stoker and its symbolism that had me pointing at the screen in excitement, though I was watching the movie alone, I want to talk about the consequences it had on me. Over these past few days now I have been suffering from what I like to call a Goode-fever. This isn’t necessarily a good thing because most of the movies I have revisited because of Goode have been romantic comedies and you all know how much I dislike those. But somehow, probably thanks to the fever, the rom-com’s were a bit better this time around – half naked Goode most likely had something (read: everything) to do with it though.
That being said, Goode’s leading performance in Stoker was totally different from what I had seen him before and thank god! He is brilliant, which is, in my opinion, something all British actors have in common, and he stands out next to Wasikowska and Kidman, who are as equally brilliant in this movie. Goode’s Charles Stoker is haunting, vulnerable and scary at the same time and with performances like these, it’s hard not to appreciate characters like Charles. This by the way is definitely not helping me and my fascination of serial killers (I sometimes stay on Wikipedia for hours reading about real life serial killers, in the dark, before bedtime)! And then there’s also India (Wasikowska), as complex as her uncle Charles, she is searching for her place in the world after her father’s tragic death on her 18th birthday.
To balance the weird and scary, India’s mother Evelyn (Kidman) portrays the so called normal and yet, she is as broken as the other characters. Though her wounds are reflected in her choice to drink and drown her sorrows into the arms of her late husband’s brother, she is never as dark as the people around her. There are some great scenes between Kidman and Goode in Stoker but I can’t help to wonder about the chemistry between Goode and Wasikowska instead. Those two managed to create a connection that felt right while it was so completely wrong in every sense that it still scares me.
Surprisingly though, despite the great chemistry between the main characters, one of my favorite scenes from the movie is actually the final scene with India alone. I think it’s partly because the final scene in Stoker is accompanied with this haunting musical track by Emily Wells and it features a very interesting direction by Chan-Wook Park. It is a perfect ending to the movie because it’s as weird as the movie itself. By the way, Stoker is written by Wentworth Miller, the guy who broke out of prison by having the plan tattooed on his body, and I’m not going to say I’m a fan but I’m definitely intrigued to see what the guy will come up next.
Why? Well mostly because while Stoker’s plot does have some weak points, Miller’s twist on the whole concept of evil got under my skin and though not the best thing ever it’s certainly different and worth some praise. Also, it takes a lot of courage to attack so many dark subjects at the same time because let’s face it, Stoker had some serious family issues going on! In the end though, most of the success behind Stoker was thanks to the brilliant performances by the cast and its unique direction by Chan-Wook Park. Being completely honest, most of the strength for me was actually seeing those connections between India and Charles hidden in the visual surface of the movie.
Two sets of parallels in particular stood out, the one with the spider and the bug and the other with the bed and the sand angel. While I don’t necessarily understand the symbolism of bugs completely, I have this eery feeling that it means to project the fact that bugs are drawn to evil or something that is rotten. It would make sense for the spider and the bug to represent just that because the symbolism of the snow angel is the opposite. Innocence, child like behavior – the angels India and Charles make are hauntingly similar and since we witness something horrible with Charles while he playfully creates his angel (another symbol by the way), we are left to wonder if India has that same darkness in her.
There are various other parallels just like these in Stoker, one in particular with the piano is strongly embedded in my brain right now, and symbolism seems to be everywhere. One minute away from the screen and you might miss something, that’s the feeling you get when you watch Stoker and I liked that feeling. It might not be my favorite of 2013 but it certainly was memorable and it brought me my Goode-fever which I don’t want to fix any time soon.0
I don’t like it half as much as you, but is agree with every strength you identify. Especially the performances. They are great.
I like it because it is different.. Thanks for the comment!
That’s actually what I like most, too. When it is at its most surreal, it’s terrific.
Good review Ray. A very strange flick, but a lot better and cooler than half of the thrillers that come out nowadays, so that’s definitely something to recommend. Especially when Matthew Goode is given a meaty role.
Goode was so different to what I had been kind of used to see him in and that was just an added bonus to it all. Thanks for the comment!
I LOVED Stoker. I know I’m in the minority but it totally got under my skin too.
Minority is the best place to be though.. there’s just enough fandom to go around but not too much to make it overwhelming. 😀
Great review! I loved Stoker, it was such a little gem. I’m totally with you on the Wikipedia thing. I spent a long time browsing on Crime Library once. I lost a lot of faith in humanity after that one.
I actually think the whole serial killer thing is so freaking fascinating.. I consider myself to be a person who understands people and their nature but killers.. they are so difficult to pinpoint it’s awesome in a way!
Love the review. Stoker was a breath of fresh air. Aside from the great performances you mentioned, it was shot beautifully helping bring all that symbolism to life. I am very much a fan of Park precisely because he knows how to get under your skin. As far as that goes, this is actually tamer than most of his stuff. If you haven’t, and are a fan of disturbing movies, I suggest checking out his Trilogy of Vengeance which includes the original Oldboy. And his vampire flick Thirst is outstanding.
I’ll make a note of these and if I get a chance I’ll definitely give them a look.
Nice review. Goode’s performance is so good and the direction by Park is fantastic. While I didn’t love some aspects to the film I’d still be interested in checking out the prequel which I hear Miller is working on.
I think it is a bit unpolished and maybe Park’s direction shuffled things around a bit but yes, Goode is good!
Good review. I really need to get around to seeing this!
It’s definitely worth it.. even if you don’t like it, I feel like it can still have an impact!
Hi, I think we tweeted each other and Sati about this a few days ago. I’m still torn about ‘Stoker.’ The shower scene really disturbed me, as did the scene in the Gif above. I have seem movies more disturbing, so I’m not sure why ‘Stoker’ repulsed me. I’ve seen more disturbing films. Perhaps I had different expectations. I’m a huge Matt Goode fan, so watching him play psychopath was…different. I have to rewatch it to reach a final conclusion.
Yes, I remember that you said it bothered you (kind of used that in my review but I didn’t mention you, is that okay?) and I can totally accept it if you thought it was too out there in terms of the stuff they attacked in Stoker. And since I’m fascinated by serial killers, Goode was extremely awesome to watch in this one.
Oh sure, no problem. You’ve definitely made me think that I need to rewatch it. I will say that the movie did it’s job. It is meant to be disturbing. The director really “set the table” so to speak. I think sometimes we want movies to make ourselves feel good or better, etc. Sometimes movies are not meant to make us feel good and sometimes the characters are not meant to be likable.
Well indeed, it was interestingly said to be a horror and horror is not meant to make us feel good. Sometimes thrillers are the opposite of feeling good.. so there are a lot of movies that instead of making us feel better, make us feel disturbed, uncomfortable and at unease. Stoker falls to that category.
Great review! Stoker was one of my favorites from last year. It was very entertaining and thrilling, even if the screenplay was sort of weak. There’s so much symbolism going on in this film!
I know, symbolism here, there and then some over there.. I feel like if you start writing weird stuff down, it will have a very long list. For instance when India eats the ice cream, that part I didn’t even mention in my review but what a way to refer to innocence and childhood.. and yet, it’s so provoking how she eats the ice cream.
Okay, watching this ASAP. Aaaawesome review!
“I sometimes stay on Wikipedia for hours reading about real life serial killers, in the dark, before bedtime” – that’s so cool 🙂
Glad you liked the film, it’s one of my fav from last year. I think the spider crawling up India’s leg symbolized her sexuality, very closely tied to her blood thirst – her first sexual encounter ended up with the kill and her accepting she desired Charlie led her to becoming a killer. I think she definitely has evil in her – she spared her mother not because of mercy but because of pity.
Yea, it doesn’t really help my sleeping though. 😀
I don’t know exactly what the spider is all about, the bug on Charlie in the end is much clearer but the symbolism of the spider is less understandable. From a different angle, India is the spider, Charlie was the bug.. spiders are known to be good house so called pets because they get rid of bugs… definitely a lot to think about with Stoker.
Thanks for the comment!
Was not a fan of the film as the cold way of acting of all the characters did not get me involved. I did think this movie looked amazing, especially some of the transitions.
I don’t mind the coldness.. I think it comes with my nationality and the fact that I think cold is interesting. But indeed, the movie looks visually stunning.
Love this film! 🙂 It has some of the most poignant imagery i saw this year and i love the melancholic feel of the film. It really can be a silent film and i would still love it as much 😀 Just the visual is gorgeous!
Indeed, not mush conversation would be needed for this if you start thinking about it. Thanks for the comment! 🙂
Fascinating review. Still haven’t seen this but looking forward to catching up with it later this month. It sounds like a visually arresting movie but one that can divide audiences. Indeed, I’ve read reviews that love it, and reviews that don’t see what all the fuss is about. I’m looking forward to making my own mind up though.
I’m not easily disturbed by disturbing things, so.. I’m on the loving side I guess. I’m looking forward to read your review!
Chan-Wook Park’s direction stood out to me the most, the atmosphere he constructed was very unique and impressive. Shame Kidman was woefully wasted, with a big money scene in the final act coming seemingly out of nowhere.
Yea well I like when big names have smaller roles.. it somehow feels different.