The legend of Stoker :: The first idea image that comes to one’s mind with the name “Stoker” is that of a vampire, if not exactly that of the primary antagonist of a 1897 Gothic horror novel. Thanks to Bram Stoker, the legend of Dracula has been something that continues to be synonymous with vampirism itself. But, there is nothing directly related to Bram Stoker here, and lets not make any guesses about it being something about the life of the creator of the world’s most well-known vampire (one of the few English writers whose name I have known since childhood). Stoker gives you no blood sucker, and even when there are murders, there is no such behaviour of not wasting the blood. The Vampire Bat has been historically against wastage of blood, and is certain to have been sad about his own idea about this movie being wrong, but that feeling never stood strong till the end of the movie. Stoker was never supposed to be about vampires, and it was not meant to be the usual horror movie; it had to be different.
What is it about? :: India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) is not going through a good period of time after her father Richard (Dermot Mulroney) dies in a car accident. Her mentally unstable mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) and India doesn’t seem to get along well. Richard’s brother Charlie (Matthew Goode) comes to the scene at that time, and keeps talking about his life which was mostly spent traveling all around the world. His stay at the house turns out to be longer than expected, and even as Evelyn likes that, India is mostly indifferent to his presence and on some occasions, rather not happy with his existence. She continues to keep away from him despite the fact that he seems to be trying quite hard to be very friendly with her. But as almost everyone who has an argument with Charlie disappears, India begins to feel that there is more to him than what meets the eye. Later, she even finds one of the dead bodies in the freezer. But she won’t be able to tell that to her mother who seems to have developed some intense feelings for his charms.
The defence of Stoker :: The movie successfully brings that creepy environment into play, with a huge house and its surrounding which seem to have more secrets than any normal person can endure, but that would eventually be proved wrong by the two characters, the introvert niece and her uncle whose existence was never known as his presence is more mysterious than the absence. The association of big houses with horror comes as no surprise, as everybody needs room to store some horrible secrets; the movies in most of the languages has the same, and Stoker has used that very well. There are lots of surprises in store too, especially related to the new member of the family, and the youngest member of the same who always had it in her to bring that shock element for which we are made to wait. Is that all about horror? No, it is mostly about horror and rest is about fantasy which follows horror in such a way that both becomes beautifully intertwined. The visuals are so nicely done so that the strange, creepy atmosphere is never out of our mind, even with nothing vicious being tried.
The claws of flaw :: Stoker can disappoint the usual horror lover depending on what he or she is looking for. It doesn’t have anything supernatural or serial killers who comes out of nowhere to create a pool of blood, even as this one does have enough blood and gruesome murders. There are no weird faces coming out of the dark making strange noises and trying to take advantage of that shocking side. This doesn’t go through that path set by Insidious and Sinister, the former needing no introduction and the latter having the most read horror movie review on my blog even as it was written almost an year after it was released, in the honorary movies list. The movie has that uniqueness which might make some audience disinterested. There is also some part of the movie where it might seem that nothing really happens, but that is not really that usual drag. The movie could have still used a little more of the direct horror, and there it might have lost a few fans too. It is also so much mixed in its genre that it can trouble fans of many genres. The grief and feelings in this movie can be highly subjective for the viewers too.
Performers of the soul :: This one comes from the South Korean director of the much admired Oldboy which was voted as one of the best Asian movies, and also Thirst which seems to have also got a similar reception – so that expectations were going to be high and I would say that this one delivers nicely, at least for me. Matthew Goode’s performance comes as real stunner in this one, as he exhibits both sides of being terrifying as well as charming with so much brilliance. Nicole Kidman also does nice with what might be the best someone can give for such a character. The best part of the movie should be Mia Wasikowska though. I mostly remember her from Alice in Wonderland in which she was so good, and she was the best Jane Eyre that most of us had ever known. Here, she takes that into another level as she is presented with a character who might be one of the strangest girls ever. She plays no Carrie, but even this character is so gifted in many ways along with being disturbed that she keeps us with her even as not completely on her side, and there comes the subjectivity of the viewers into play.
Soul exploration :: This is the first time that I have noticed Mia Wasikowska with black hair, and as that seems to suit her so well, it adds to the soul too. Eighteen year old girl and never really smiling in the movie – now that is more than just interesting for a Vampire Bat’s soul. Caught between her innocence and awareness, India doesn’t become like the others; she chooses to be different. But what is to follow when she decides to follow her instincts rather than her innocence? She is a lot like her uncle, and that is something that is proved again and again in the movie. They both have a lot in common, and India always has that invitation into that dark world which she can resist only with her best attempts. But her world has already shattered, and any resistance that she can produce would rather become an illusion which won’t help her a bit. She has always had the dark side with all its strength, and it is only herself that keeps her back, and there will always be a revelation which can turn the whole world upside down.
How it finishes :: Stoker successfully keeps the audience in the movie and doesn’t throw away its logic, even when it slows down in pace, an achievement which not many horror movies can boast about. You can say that with most of the shots of the movie. Stoker has style and it has substance; to add to it, this is a thriller and horror movie with the elements of drama, not something which is easy to achieve. “Don’t disturb the family” is a nice tagline for the movie too, as we do come to know what happens when even the youngest member of the family is disturbed – not a good sign for anyone planning to do the same. You got to love the way they look in the poster too, especially Mia Wasikowska; Barnabas Collins of Dark Shadows shall approve it with an A+. Watch this one as a horror movie, a thriller, a coming-of-age story, a slasher flick, a tale of revenge and even as a strange romantic tragedy. Stoker might be strange to a number of people belonging to the normal audience category, but it has so much in it which makes it a force to be reckoned with.
Release date: 1st March 2013
Running time: 99 minutes
Directed by: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich, Phyllis Somerville, Ralph Brown, Judith Godrèche
@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.