Film Review: Stoker

I know that Stoker was awarded a 4-Star plus Empire Magazine recommendation, and that, based purely on their advice is how it came into my life and into my DVD collection. I should point out though that I backed their endorsement up with a browsing of the trailer. And when you combine the two you can be forgiven for expecting 1 and 1 to finally make 2. Things look good from the outside.

Sadly though, that just isn’t the case when you step inside. Once again I have been treated to firstly, a “critics movie” where underlying tones, metaphors, imagery and levels of scripture overshadow any attempt at a sensible plot and secondly, the trailer lies. The film never manages to live up to the heightened tension or dramatic release it’s short interlude claims. Instead you get left with a slow, squat and strange tale that plods seemingly uncaring from start to finish.

For huge parts of Stoker I sat there thinking that I was being treated to a mash of ideas borrowed, stolen and proclaimed from: Wes Anderson, Tim Burton, Guillermo del Toro and The Adam’s Family. Here is a dark, grim twisted story created in the guise of a fairytale but is lacking any temperature at all. This coldness and its ludicrously slow pace meant that the story never gels, never connects and never feels coherent. While it’s not hard to follow what’s going on because it’s just a series of black and white events pushed together, there is no depth, rhyme or reason to their actions. They never stop to explain anything. You sit there thinking “Ok, but why?” more than anything else.

Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman & Mia Wasikowska - Stoker

This complete lack of empathy, of explanation, means that one place where Stoker amazingly excels is in it’s casting. The three main protagonists: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode never fit together, never look like a family, yet you don’t care. Throughout the entire film they feel awkward, incompatible and blank but this is exactly how it should be. Exactly what is needed to work. I actually think because this film feels so broken, the characters own friction serves only to enhance and seems fitting. There is no love, just pure sterility in how each character comes to life and interacts.

I cannot recommend this film at all. It’s bizarre, poor and a waste of an evening, however, I also don’t hate it. It’s managed to leave me completely perplexed in that I was met by a film that aside from one emotional charged rendition on a piano, I never engaged with and could have easily turned off while at the same time being totally intrigued by. It was almost like rubbernecking an accident. You don’t want to look but whatever you say, you can’t help but do so. I was constantly waiting for the pace to pick up, or for the twist, that to me appeared obvious, and yet never arrived. No matter how hard I tried to work out a motive, or guess a direction I was about to go in, this movie would creak drudgingly, but chillingly, in another.

Honestly, even hardened film fans will struggle with Stoker. If you want to work your mind with dark fairy tales stick to the source material because something like Pan’s Labyrinth or Corpse Bride will provide a far better way to waste an evening. But if you do decide to give Stoker a go, be warned, somehow, it will get slightly under your skin, without you even noticing.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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