‘Stoker’s’ suspense peters out too soon
A review of “Stoker,” the decidedly odd English-language debut of Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook.
Seattle Times movie critic
‘Stoker,’ with Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Jacki Weaver, Dermot Mulroney. Directed by Park Chan-wook, from a screenplay by Wentwood Miller. 100 minutes. Rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content. Meridian 16, Sundance Cinemas and Lincoln Square.
India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) is a quiet girl, pale as cotton, whose dark hair hangs so flat it seems to be crushing her down. She’s the eerie focus of “Stoker,” the decidedly odd English-language debut of Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook (“Oldboy,” “Lady Vengeance”). In this movie, every noise is ominous; every exchange of dialogue is elaborately dragged out; everything and everyone has a veneer of creepiness — particularly the oily-white grin of Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) who comes to visit India and her mother, Evie (Nicole Kidman), after the death of India’s father, Richard (Dermot Mulroney).
Richard’s death is mysterious — but so is India’s uncanny way of hearing what other people cannot hear (she listens, fascinated, to the painful cracking of an egg as she slowly rolls it), and Evie’s creamy whisper of a voice, and the stately, remote Stoker house, where danger seems to be lurking in every dusty corner. Necks get snapped, people disappear, old secrets are discovered, and through it all India maintains her steady, quiet gaze, even as the white floors turn red with blood.
Watching it, you think of Hitchcock’s elegant suspense, and you think of Sissy Spacek’s terrifying stillness in “Carrie,” and gradually you realize that you’re thinking about everything except “Stoker,” which seems to be unfolding somewhere else; somewhere where it makes sense that everyone seems to be sleepwalking.
It’s often lovely to look at, but you wish the talented Australian trio at its center (Wasikowska, Kidman and Jacki Weaver as a concerned aunt) were engaged in something more intriguing. “Stoker,” its title seemingly in homage to Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” is no vampire; it dies, long before its ending.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org