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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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Stoker
Really dark shadows


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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.

I really don't believe emotion is that big of a part of the film. Some of the work of the Coen brothers can be quite cold, and I still find them brilliant. Extend this to some of Godard's work or Kubrick's. So I would disagree. ... More

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


RE: Utterly awful.

L: Rebel scum L: jrewing1000 L: Rebel scum L: jrewing1000 Snip again have to correct you. I didn't say anything about people who might consider Mrs Doubtfire their favourite film, I discussed people who might claim Mrs Doubtfire was the best film ever made. There is a huge difference there. I am the first to defend people's opinions on what they like or dislike. I'm a Phil Collins fan for heaven's sake! But personal opinion is not the same as accurate criticism o... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 21:36, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: jrewing1000 L: Rebel scum L: jrewing1000 Snip again have to correct you. I didn't say anything about people who might consider Mrs Doubtfire their favourite film, I discussed people who might claim Mrs Doubtfire was the best film ever made. There is a huge difference there. I am the first to defend people's opinions on what they like or dislike. I'm a Phil Collins fan for heaven's sake! But personal opinion is not the same as accurate criticism or accurate praise. Of c... More

Posted by Rebel scum at 21:29, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: Rebel scum L: jrewing1000 You know, it's weird. It doesn't make me angry, but I find it both frustrating and puzzling that people are looking at this film in such a different way. I don't think my instincts are so far off the mark, but in this case, there's such a difference of opinion, and I have to be honest that I'm convinced they are seeing things in this film that simply aren't there, that yes - I feel a little pissed about it. Simply because I value good film, I think it... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 21:04, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: jrewing1000 You know, it's weird. It doesn't make me angry, but I find it both frustrating and puzzling that people are looking at this film in such a different way. I don't think my instincts are so far off the mark, but in this case, there's such a difference of opinion, and I have to be honest that I'm convinced they are seeing things in this film that simply aren't there, that yes - I feel a little pissed about it. Simply because I value good film, I think it's important. I also... More

Posted by Rebel scum at 20:21, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

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 just Stoker. I get that ... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 19:40, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

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 just Stoker. I get that ... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 19:36, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

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 just Stoker. I get that you really hate thi... More

Posted by elab49 at 15:00, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: jrewing1000 I am completely amazed at how this received a five star review, and only confirms to me that the Empire review staff have no clue what they are talking about. I'll go even further to say that Empire have embarrassed themselves for allowing this 5 star rating to stand. Yes, this post doesn't make you sound entitled or self-absorbed at all. Seriously, Empire are such twats for posting a review that doesn't align with your reaction to Stoker. Bunch of asshats. ... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 14:50, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

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. ... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 14:35, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Stoker

L: demoncleaner Up its own arse whilst also being laughably naive, like a psychological thriller from the sixth form. There's a line in Ozu's Late Spring that goes something like "Your uncle's favourite suit has been eaten by moths", I think the reason why that stayed with me is that I probably thought at the time “what a strange fucking thing to say.” The majority of lines in Stoker are like that. When I say the majority I mean the times when it’s “doing” psychological. The f... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 14:18, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: jrewing1000 L: demoncleaner L: jrewing1000 iterally one of the worst films I have ever seenning example of style over substance. I am completely amazed at how this received a five star review, and only confirms to me that the Empire review staff have no clue what they are talking about. I'll go even further to say that Empire have embarrassed themselves for allowing this 5 star rating to stand. absolutely agree with this. Olly Richards can live his life and tell... More

Posted by ElephantBoy at 12:33, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

I think Park Chan-Wook's filmography is sufficient defence against such a sweeping statement. I'm not sure the trailer is particularly helpful for Stoker. It seems to suggest more a standard jumps and bangs thriller type film, which it clearly isn't (probably something that would be agreed by both those for and against it ... More

Posted by elab49 at 12:17, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: demoncleaner L: jrewing1000 iterally one of the worst films I have ever seenning example of style over substance. I am completely amazed at how this received a five star review, and only confirms to me that the Empire review staff have no clue what they are talking about. I'll go even further to say that Empire have embarrassed themselves for allowing this 5 star rating to stand. absolutely agree with this. Olly Richards can live his life and tell his family, his friends... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 12:12, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Utterly awful.

L: jrewing1000 iterally one of the worst films I have ever seenning example of style over substance. I am completely amazed at how this received a five star review, and only confirms to me that the Empire review staff have no clue what they are talking about. I'll go even further to say that Empire have embarrassed themselves for allowing this 5 star rating to stand. absolutely agree with this. Olly Richards can live his life and tell his family, his friends and his loved ones about... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 03:02, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Stoker

Post deleted ... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 02:31, 10 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Stoker

L: jrewing1000 Yes yes obviously my opinion etc, etc. I merely selected a review that chimed with how I felt. There is so much at fault with this movie, so much wrong with it on so many levels that I don't know where to start. It tries so hard to be earnest and provocative, yet I actually giggled out loud at various points because it was so damn cheesy, so naively clumsy and obvious. It's 'The Happening' bad. n fairness, I didn't say it was 'just' your opinion, I said that was t... More

Posted by elab49 at 19:20, 09 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Stoker

L: R W The biggest surprise comes from Nicole Kidman, who has never been more brittle before as there is nothing likable about her role as the uptight and somewhat pathetic mother. actually thought it was one of her worst screen performances to date. Then again, you may have seen from my other posts that I didn't like this movie very much :) ... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 19:16, 09 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Stoker

Yes yes obviously my opinion etc, etc. I merely selected a review that chimed with how I felt. There is so much at fault with this movie, so much wrong with it on so many levels that I don't know where to start. It tries so hard to be earnest and provocative, yet I actually giggled out loud at various points because it was so damn cheesy, so naively clumsy and obvious. It's 'The Happening' bad. ... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 19:14, 09 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Stoker

Over the course of this year, three top directors from South Korea have made their debut to the English language, with A Tale of Two Sisters’ Kim Ji-woon helming The Last Stand which was Arnie’s return from “governating”, while The Host’s Bong Joon-ho directing the upcoming sci-fi train thriller Snowpiercer. As of now, the best of the three, Park Chan-wook (director of the ultimate revenge film Oldboy) has made his English-language debut with a seductive and haunting thriller about an evil fami... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 18:09, 09 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Stoker

But here's another pointlessly random review that disagrees with you http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AI D=/20130227/REVIEWS/130229980/1003/ANSWERMAN Metacritic suggests there are more agin you than for you, although it's not a slam dunk. But irrelevant - the important thing is your opinion, and someone else's review doesn't make it any more right or, indeed, any more wrong ... More

Posted by elab49 at 16:53, 09 March 2013 | Report This Post


Utterly awful.

Quite literally one of the worst films I have ever seen. A shining example of style over substance. I am completely amazed at how this received a five star review, and only confirms to me that the Empire review staff have no clue what they are talking about. I'll go even further to say that Empire have embarrassed themselves for allowing this 5 star rating to stand. This review is much more accurate: http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/sundance-review- park-chan-wooks-stoker-with-nico... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jrewing1000 at 14:13, 09 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Stoker

I hate the film personally, I think the 3 main strands of apologia are a) camp value b) shadow of a doubt and c) Park Chan-wook''s ingenious direction I think that c) is the most difficult to challenge, because it's expert and involved, and I think in his commitment to match imagery to both plot and theme he's the best and only good thing about this. b) next motherfucker to mention Shadow of a Doubt in connection with this film is gonna get my metal..to quote Marilyn Manson's first... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 04:26, 09 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Stoker

What did it pretend to? ... More

Posted by elab49 at 19:23, 08 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Stoker

Pretentious codswallop. Went to see this on the strength of the good reviews. Total waste of money ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by teejay at 18:58, 08 March 2013 | Report This Post


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