Stoker *** (out of five)
Stoker is an acquired taste. It’s completely stylized in an over the top way. Actors are not directed to act in a realistic manner (there’s no Stanislavsky going on here). Instead, they’re breathing props, serving the mise-en-scene of Director Chan-wook Park, who directs them via translator. This is not a problem, as long as you accept that this is what Stoker is. Everything about it is heightened, and it bears no relation to reality. I liked it. It’s haunting and strange.
Is it a horror movie? No, it’s way too art-house for that. A truly eccentric curiosity of a film, it observes a teenager, India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska, who seemingly can do anything) deal with her father’s death and the introduction of her father’s brother Charles (Matthew Goode) into her stilted, formal family, which consists only of herself and her uptight mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman). It’s a tiny, inverted, gender-switched take on Hamlet, with the court replaced by a a single family and a couple of (unexplained) servants.
Everything about this movie is strange and unpredictable; it may take place within some concept of the American rich, but really it takes place within the mind. The filmmaking is never anything less than completely controlled and precise. It’s a weird (and fun) experience: like peering into the mind of a crazy genius on an off day. I liked the mood of Stoker: gothic, dark, strange and melancholy. It’s like a really creepy Sunday afternoon.