There was quite a bit of hype surrounding “Stoker” for a few reasons. First, it was written by Wentworth Miller, the star of TV’s “Prison Break.” He sent the screenply out to Hollywood under a pseudonym so it would be treated like every other script in town. Once it got picked up, Chan-wook Park, who directed highly regarded films like “Old Boy,” signed on as director, making this his English language debut. So, does “Stoker” live up to whatever expectations that were placed on it?
Mia Wasikowska (“Alice in Wonderland”) stars as India Stoker, a quiet, sheltered girl whose father recently died under mysterious circumstances. Her mother (Nicole Kidman) tries to console her, but it’s difficult because her daughter hates to be touched. Things seem to become stable when India’s uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) arrives and makes himself at home in the Stoker residence, but Charlie is not quite as kind as he seems.
Everything about “Stoker” is ridiculous. India is supposed to be different and quiet, a girl stuck in adolescence. We know this because India sits in over-sized furniture for the first half of the film, making her look smaller and younger than she really is. India, with her lack of social skills and “Carrie”-esque hair, comes across as autistic. Something is clearly not right with her. The fact that she doesn’t seem to go to school (at least for the first act) brings home that fact. But no. This girl goes to a normal high school, where boys taunt her and one even has a crush on her, which honestly feels inappropriate because India is so…awkward. But that’s not the most ridiculous part.
Ever since Charlie arrived, anyone who poses any kind of threat to him (or the family), mysteriously disappears. As the days drag on, nobody gets curious about this. Nobody calls the cops. They just assume these people left town, even when India finds a dead body in the freezer. Why? Mostly because it isn’t convenient for the filmmakers to let reality intrude on such a ridiculous affair. It’s the same reason that same freezer isn’t just in the basement, but in the furthest, darkest corner of the basement.
“Stoker” is meant to be some kind of coming of age story for India, as she grows into the person Charlie knows she is and her father tried to suppress. By the time this revelation comes to the forefront, it doesn’t really matter. The script is so shallow, so lacking in any kind of narrative that there’s nothing left to do but roll your eyes.
The only thing going for “Stoker” is Park’s eye for visuals. It’s stunning. The man knows how to shoot a film. In the case of “Stoker,” Park isn’t doing much more than polishing a turd, but boy does that turd shine.