Stoker Blu-ray Review
As a film critic, I’m blessed with the opportunity to see hundreds of movies every year. Good or bad, I always keep an open mind in what I see but usually I have some degree of understanding what I’m getting into. However, every now and again, I stumble upon a film completely unexpected that tingles the senses and reminds me why I love movies. STOKER is a breath of strange air in originality and inventive direction.
Mixing drama and suspense with a splash of horror, STOKER is pulsating with tension. But at the heart is quite the unique coming of age story. The first time screenplay by actor Wentworth Miller (Prison Break) is magnified beyond its dreams by the amazing direction from Chan-wook Park (OLDBOY). The dark story is fairly straight forward while simultaneously nothing like you’ve ever seen.
On India Stoker’s (Mia Wasikowska) eighteenth birthday her father is killed in a car accident. At her father’s funeral, India is introduced to her estranged uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who will be living with India and her unstable mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) at their large secluded estate. Immediately, the audience is brought to have a certain distrust about the very charming Charlie but not in an ordinary predictable solution. Something’s not right but we never know to what extent or in what way. The same can be said for every character, as their odd behavior provides a steady discomfort throughout the picture in how emotions are apparent but never quite in context. That ‘not knowing’ is a huge key to what makes the film so affective. This is seen not only through the exceptional performances by our three leads but also by the brilliant direction.
STOKER opens with some striking imagery of India crossing a road into a field as she narrates a rather unique sensory skill. Explaining how she hears every minute sound and sees the world from different angles works as a viewpoint from any troubled teen feeling alone in the world. But director Chan-wook Park takes it another step by making a very quiet film and raising the volume on every detail. Walking up the stairs, tapping fingers against the wall and a swinging light fixture are just a few examples amplified through the entire picture. We hear what India hears. Even the camera sometimes lingers above the characters providing far too much headroom creating a sense of uneasiness through the use of space. The technique provides not only tension but also another sense of India’s abnormal perception.
The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking providing another part of the storytelling process. In an early scene we see a close-up of a spider walk across the floor and halfway up India’s leg. The senses of this movement are heightened visually and audibly. The spider is both delicate and disruptive telling everything about the characters within STOKER. Mia Wasikoska gives an absolutely amazing performance who’s character while quiet and recluse inches her way to forbidden territory before blossoming in a way that is unexpected and eerily satisfying.
Chan-wook Park’s STOKER reminds me a lot of Nicolas Winding Refn’s DRIVE, not in the story itself but in how the story and characters are manifested through precise direction. Aided by adept cinematography, costuming, art direction and acting, STOKER is deliciously disturbing and I believe one of the best films of the year.
Video: (MPEG-4 AVC, 1080p 2.40:1) An absolute exquisite looking picture with a sharp image and beautiful colors that set the tone for every scene.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio was perfect as every minute sound plays a large part to the overall picture.
Deleted Scenes (10:01): Three scenes wisely cut as they added to already established scenes taking away some of the mystery STOKER accomplished so well.
Stoker: A Filmmaker’s Journey (27:50): This is an extensive behind the scenes look at the making of the film and how it came to be. This is the one featurette definitely worth your time.
Photography by Mary Ellen Mark (11:15): A ton of set photography of the actors and director.
London Theater Design (2:35): These are still not from the movie but a set resembling the film made up for the premier. Completely unnecessary.
Theatrical Behind-the-Scenes: The Making of the Limited Edition Poster (2:55), Mysterious Characters (3:33), Director’s Vision (3:28), Designing the Look (3:02), Creating the Music (2:39).
Red Carpet Footage (15:38): An excessive amount of video of director Chan-wook Park and actress Mia Wasikowska signing autographs as Emily Wells song “Becomes the Color” plays on a loop.
“Becomes the Color” Performance by Emily Wells (4:46): I absolutely love this song. It fits the film perfectly and I can’t stop listening to it. I hope the Academy remembers it during award season.
Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots (3:48)