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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Nicole Kidman
Mia Wasikowska
Matthew Goode
Jacki Weaver.
Directors
Park Chan-wook.
Screenwriters
Wentworth Miller.
Running Time
98 minutes

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Plot
After her husband dies in a car accident, lonely widow Evie (Kidman) invites his estranged brother (Goode) to stay. This doesn’t sit well with Evie’s strange daughter (Wasikowska), who suspects her uncle of being up to no good and intends to prove her instincts correct.


Review
Stoker
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Imagine Alfred Hitchcock adapting The Addams Family, not especially faithfully, and that should give you some idea of the mood of Park Chan-wook’s superb first English-language film — a very grown-up horror movie. It’s not the sort of horror movie that waves chainsaws around and chases pert young women through the woods. It’s much smarter than that. It’s spooky, clipped and elegantly bonkers, like an ancient dowager aunt.

The story takes place almost entirely in one of those giant, immaculate houses, which movies would have us believe were built so large in order to offer rich people room for all their secrets, where brittle widow Evie (Nicole Kidman) lives with her daughter India (Mia Wasikowska), an 18 year-old who is a creepy mix of old soul and petulant child. Their days pass in loaded glances until the funeral of Evie’s late husband (played in flashback by Dermot Mulroney) brings his younger brother (Matthew Goode), who gets his feet under the table and his fingers in all the family’s troubles. Nobody ever smiles, at least not all the way up to their eyes, and everyone suspects everyone else of being up to no good, usually with perfectly valid reason. It bleeds into a murder mystery, with each character becoming madder and more ambiguous at every turn.

Park directs the film with a precision and control that are astonishing. There doesn’t seem to be a single frame that he hasn’t carefully considered or included without necessity, even if some of the odder ones take a little while to figure out. The imagery is just magnificent, all chilly but dreamy — or possibly nightmarish — his regular cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon giving it a feel a little like Douglas Sirk with more menace. There are touches that could keep film students deliberating for days, notably one transition from hair being brushed to a field of wavering grass, and lots of bits with a spider all but begging for someone to ascribe him a metaphor.

Before disappearing up our fundament, it must be said that rather than make the film feel finickity or pretentious, all this fastidiousness anchors the world. Although what’s happening is deeply unusual and detached from reality, Park’s commitment to its every detail gives it a logical reality of its own and an atmosphere so thick, you can’t see beyond it. In less steady hands it could very easily have become camp, but wherever there might be a temptation to play a scene in high emotion, Park flattens it out, only enhancing the strangeness.

The script, by Wentworth Miller — yes, him from Prison Break — is a very trim piece of work, never wasting a word when a look will do. Miller has cited Bram Stoker’s Dracula as an influence, and presumably source of the title, though really the most it appears to take from that book is a Gothic mood. Nobody’s sucking on anybody’s neck or flying out the window on a little bit of elastic. More evident is its other influence, Hitchcock’s Shadow Of A Doubt, with which it shares a bad Uncle Charlie, the weirdness of intensely close family relationships and the damage childhood can do, although it’s even more twisted than Hitchcock’s film. The savage evil of Shadow Of A Doubt’s ending would just be a kicking-off point here, a little warm-up before the depravity really gets going.

To tell this story in this way, Park needs actors who can do a lot with a little and he’s served by a faultless cast, particularly a prime leading trio. Wasikowska comes over like a more damaged take on Alice In Wonderland, Kidman’s Evie is heartbreaking in her own messy way, and Goode glowers handsomely as if he is simultaneously plotting abominable acts and taking part in history’s most sinister fashion shoot. They’re each powerful enough to hold the screen alone, but the scenes that bring all three together are an exhibition in underplaying. This lot can tense up a casual dinner conversation like nobody’s business.

These are the kind of performances that should be nominated for awards but generally aren’t because there’s absolutely no showing off; no big moment, just a stream of smaller, more effective ones.

Don’t come in expecting the action or screwy aspects of Oldboy or Sympathy For Lady Vengeance, because this is a much more, for want of a better term, formal film than Park is known for. His consistent theme of revenge certainly plays a part, but all the violence is emotional, with even the few moments of actual physical harm taking place mainly off screen. That said, although Stoker is a film told in a much more polite way than Oldboy, it stillhas a soul every bit as artfully cruel.


Verdict
An intense mix of horror, thriller and domestic drama, this is exquisite filmmaking.


Reviewed by Olly Richards


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Stoker
Empire Star Rating

RE: Utterly awful.

No... you'd be pompous. Just because something is popularly regarded as one of the best things ever, doesn't mean everyone has to conform to that. ... More

Posted by AxlReznor at 11:47, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: MonsterCat I haven't seen Stoker yet but I refuse to believe it's comparable to The Room. ark Chan Wook's story-telling style might irk some, and that's understandable, but he's technically accomplished. Tommy Wiseau is a talentless chancer who made a really bad and boring film. didn't say it was comparable to The Room. I said it came to mind. Of course it's not that bad. But I wouldn't be surprised if Stoker ended up in the same ballpark. ... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 11:44, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: horribleives L: jrewing1000 L: DancingClown L: jrewing1000 All true, except I couldn't care less how Olly Richards disagrees with me. He's entitled to his opinion, I'm entitled to mine.kay. But... n to think he's wrong about what he wrote, and the fact that he represents a film publication makes me react even stronger. thought you just said you couldn't care less? Why are you getting your knickers in such a twist? Calm down. It's a film, not a rectal ... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 11:43, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: jrewing1000 L: DancingClown L: jrewing1000 All true, except I couldn't care less how Olly Richards disagrees with me. He's entitled to his opinion, I'm entitled to mine.kay. But... n to think he's wrong about what he wrote, and the fact that he represents a film publication makes me react even stronger. thought you just said you couldn't care less? Why are you getting your knickers in such a twist? Calm down. It's a film, not a rectal exam. this up for m... More

Posted by horribleives at 11:24, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

I haven't seen Stoker yet but I refuse to believe it's comparable to The Room. ark Chan Wook's story-telling style might irk some, and that's understandable, but he's technically accomplished. Tommy Wiseau is a talentless chancer who made a really bad and boring film. ... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 11:21, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: Qwerty Norris L: jrewing1000 Yes, they should play this in lecture theatres to show how not to make a film. For that, this film is worth studying. It's the kind of film made by people who think they understand how films/storytelling works, but actually don't. 'm sorry but that is unicorn manure stinking from the high heavens. There's a massive difference between something you don't like & something which is actually crap. Fair enough if you hated it (I can un... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 11:05, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: DancingClown L: jrewing1000 All true, except I couldn't care less how Olly Richards disagrees with me. He's entitled to his opinion, I'm entitled to mine.kay. But... n to think he's wrong about what he wrote, and the fact that he represents a film publication makes me react even stronger. thought you just said you couldn't care less? Why are you getting your knickers in such a twist? Calm down. It's a film, not a rectal exam. this up for me, it's been interesting... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 11:04, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


Exquisite

Dark, unnerving, unpredictable. A great film which will stay with you, and best seen blind. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Hawros at 10:42, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: jrewing1000 All true, except I couldn't care less how Olly Richards disagrees with me. He's entitled to his opinion, I'm entitled to mine.kay. But... n to think he's wrong about what he wrote, and the fact that he represents a film publication makes me react even stronger. thought you just said you couldn't care less? Why are you getting your knickers in such a twist? Calm down. It's a film, not a rectal exam. this up for me, it's been interesting discussing film criticis... More

Posted by DancingClown at 09:30, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

I thought it was ok. i feel left out by my indifference ... More

Posted by benny the jet at 02:42, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

This conversation reminds me of the Scream 4 thread ... More

Posted by superdan at 01:26, 12 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: jrewing1000 Yes, they should play this in lecture theatres to show how not to make a film. For that, this film is worth studying. It's the kind of film made by people who think they understand how films/storytelling works, but actually don't. 'm sorry but that is unicorn manure stinking from the high heavens. There's a massive difference between something you don't like & something which is actually crap. Fair enough if you hated it (I can understand that), but to ... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 22:27, 11 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: MonsterCat L: jrewing1000 Then perhaps I've been taking reviews far too seriously. Even so, for Empire to have given this film 5 stars, and for me to think it's only 1, makes me think Empire reviews are no longer reliable for my own tastes. Pass the Sight and Sound.. ou're never going to get a magazine/film-website which is "reliable for your own tastes" because film by its very nature is subjective. It's impossible. How long will it be until you angry at Sight & Sound for p... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 20:13, 11 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: AxlReznor When general consensus is so "out of whack" with yours, it's perhaps time to admit that it's just not your thing and move on, instead of just being convinced that everyone else is just blind as to how bad it is. admit, it's not my thing. (I'm moving on) ... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 20:03, 11 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: jrewing1000 Then perhaps I've been taking reviews far too seriously. Even so, for Empire to have given this film 5 stars, and for me to think it's only 1, makes me think Empire reviews are no longer reliable for my own tastes. Pass the Sight and Sound.. ou're never going to get a magazine/film-website which is "reliable for your own tastes" because film by its very nature is subjective. It's impossible. How long will it be until you angry at Sight & Sound for publishing a review with... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 15:11, 11 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

When general consensus is so "out of whack" with yours, it's perhaps time to admit that it's just not your thing and move on, instead of just being convinced that everyone else is just blind as to how bad it is. ... More

Posted by AxlReznor at 15:04, 11 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: jrewing1000 L: elab49 L: jrewing1000 L: elab49 I think Park Chan-Wook's filmography is sufficient defence against such a sweeping statement. bsolute nonsense. Chan-Wook's filmography could be the greatest ever shot, it makes no difference. It actually makes it even worse because most of his work in this film is entirely irrelevant. And that makes it a failure. ut you made an eent - so I think it's fair to say that does bring in his other work, not ... More

Posted by horribleives at 14:30, 11 March 2013 | Report This Post


A Sublime Film, Lacking Something...

Stoker is a fine film. There's no other way to put it. Park Chan-wook, respected auteur of Oldboy has crafted a subversive and highly original cinematic feel to his first English language film. The production is innovative and fresh, and despite the fact that the Scott brothers fingerprints are present throughout, at no point does the film feel like something seen before. The performances are also excellent, with Goode a notable standout. There's more than a touch of indulgence about the plot ho... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 13:42, 11 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

demoncleaner The below comments are unwarranted and are far too personal about the reviewer. The general rule is definitely applicable to "Criticise the persons work, but not the person themselves." Please desist from doing this in the future. It also makes you sound more petulant that objective, but thats probably another matter. y Richards! Olly Richards said in his review (as a sort of Beatitude) that there is a certain type of performance that doesn't win awards but is qu... More

Posted by shool at 11:21, 11 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: Rebel scum L: jrewing1000 Let me ask you a question then - if a review was so badly out of whack, would you consider it inaccurate? Can a review ever be inaccurate? ot as far as opinion goes. If the Empire review of Stoker had said "Directed by Tim Burton" that would definitely be inaccurate! Otherwise, it's all subjective. If someone thinks a script's well-written that I think was written in half an hour by a frustrated monkey, fair play to them. The only time I would raise... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 22:10, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: jrewing1000 Let me ask you a question then - if a review was so badly out of whack, would you consider it inaccurate? Can a review ever be inaccurate? ot as far as opinion goes. If the Empire review of Stoker had said "Directed by Tim Burton" that would definitely be inaccurate! Otherwise, it's all subjective. If someone thinks a script's well-written that I think was written in half an hour by a frustrated monkey, fair play to them. The only time I would raise a querying finger w... More

Posted by Rebel scum at 22:05, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: Deviation cut like a commercial. his reminds me of the "looks like a music video" criticism, I can't imagine why this is a bad thing. Oh and a review cannot be inaccurate, unless per say, it gets some of the technical stuff of the film, or the credits, or some of the scenes that happen wrongly. gain, I may not be explaining myself well. 'Cut like a commercial' in itself may not be a bad thing (I thought Tree of Life was cut like a commercial, yet I enjoyed it). What I meant w... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 22:03, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

cut like a commercial. his reminds me of the "looks like a music video" criticism, I can't imagine why this is a bad thing. Oh and a review cannot be inaccurate, unless per say, it gets some of the technical stuff of the film, or the credits, or some of the scenes that happen wrongly. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 21:59, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: Rebel scum I agree emotion is at the core of most films (It's not a prerequisite by any means though), but it's a tricky thing to define as definitely "successful" or "unsuccessful", since everyone has different emotional reactions to events. It's incredibly subjective since emotional reactions to films can be determined by past experiences, memory, even trivial things like how you're feeling on the day of the film, so to rubber-stamp a film and say "This film is successful at makin... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 21:55, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

I agree emotion is at the core of most films (It's not a prerequisite by any means though), but it's a tricky thing to define as definitely "successful" or "unsuccessful", since everyone has different emotional reactions to events. It's incredibly subjective since emotional reactions to films can be determined by past experiences, memory, even trivial things like how you're feeling on the day of the film, so to rubber-stamp a film and say "This film is successful at making the audience care abo... More

Posted by Rebel scum at 21:49, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


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