Korean wunderkind director Park Chan-wook brings his moody, stylized sense of tone and style to Stoker, a unique psychological thriller that sets its shocks and jolts amid some of the most measured pacing even seen in an English language shock film. With a wonderfully creepy house which is the antithesis of the old dark mansion from old-fashioned horror films and expertly eccentric performances from the three leading players, Stoker makes for a welcome change from the run-of-the-mill blood-soaked thrillers.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Run Time: 1 Hr. 39 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraVioletkeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/18/2013
On the day of her eighteenth birthday, sullen and withdrawn India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) must attend the funeral of her father Richard (Dermot Mulroney) with whom she shared a special bond. Showing up for the funeral is Richard’s brother Charlie (Matthew Goode) who's been traveling the world for years and has never been introduced before to either India or her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) even though he’s been sending India a gift of shoes every year of her life on her birthday. Charlie takes a special interest in both Evelyn and India taking over many of the household duties for Evelyn and watching after India whose shy ways bring out the school bullies to taunt her. But Uncle Charlie has his own agenda that isn’t immediately clear to either of the ladies in his life.
The Production Rating: 4/5
This is one of the more unusual coming-of-age stories wrapped inside a horror film, and thanks go to actor Wentworth Miller for writing the original screenplay. With the three leading characters being so off the beaten path (and those who enter into their world like Alden Ehrenreich’s Whip who runs interference for India at school and Jacki Weaver’s concerned aunt who has private, muffled conversations with both Charlie and Evelyn once Charlie enters the picture seem slightly off kilter themselves), the movie seems offbeat and unconventional right from the start (and by the time we get to the end amid all the shocking revelations and occurrences, we understand why the film’s beginning seems so other worldly). Director Park Chan-wook composes sequences that exude unease and quirkiness, and yet there is such an elegance to his direction with segues that continually astonish (going from a pan down Nicole Kidman’s hair that turns into pine needles or a bird’s egg morphing into India’s left eye – highly symbolic since India is indeed hatching into a special kind of woman during the course of the movie) and scenes that aren’t always linearly composed or presented that we’re always on guard for whatever might erupt. And what erupts is sometimes erotic, sometimes lyrical (Charlie and India playing a four-handed piano piece is simply lovely), sometimes violent, and always memorable.
Mia Wasikowska gives a spellbinding performance as India, completely believable as a young girl in the first bloom of womanhood and yet with her own agenda about her life which becomes clearer to her (and us) as the movie progresses. Matthew Goode has just the right amount of grinning enigma as Uncle Charlie. His secrets are eventually revealed two-thirds of the way into the movie, and yet there are more surprises to come even after those revelations, and Goode never reverts to a clichéd enactment in playing his varying moods. Nicole Kidman has a very difficult character to play, a woman we don’t ever really seem to get under the skin of (compared to India and Charlie certainly). Is her measured speech and slow-moving behavior near-catatonia due to her husband’s demise or is this her normal behavior (maybe accounting for the strained relationship with India)? The script doesn’t provide many answers to her riddles. Dermot Mulroney has some effective flashback scenes as we get to know Richard a little bit, and Jacki Weaver as Aunt Gwen adds her own little mysteries to the Stoker family tree. Alden Ehrenreich as the high schooler with a yen for India and Lucas Till as the school bully who gets more than he bargained for make useful foils for India and Charlie.
The film has been framed at its theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is mostly very good though occasionally there are some focus issues that don’t seem deliberate. Contrast also varies a bit in some of the latter stages of the movie. Color saturation is nicely balanced throughout, and skin tones are quite natural. Black levels are merely okay through the movie and slightly disappointing. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix doesn’t use the full surround soundstage for optimum advantage. Though the spread is strong across the front speakers with both sound effects and Clint Mansell’s unusual background score, the rears only get occasional spillage from the fronts and not much in the way of dedicated split effects being placed there deliberately. Dialogue has been expertly recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Three Deleted Scenes (10:01, HD): may be played together or individually.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
A Filmmaker’s Journey (27:50, HD): the most substantial of the bonus features finds the film’s main stars, key members of the crew, producer Michael Costigan, and director Park Chan-wook (subtitled as he speaks Korean) discussing the story/script by Wentworth Miller (who’s conspicuously absent from all the bonus features) and the effective location mansion where 80% of the action takes place. Cast and crew members also praise the director highly for his approach to filming.
Photos by Mary Ellen Mark: a step-through gallery of photos taken during production.
London Theater Design: step-through gallery of sets and props from the film as displayed at the Curzon Soho Theater in London.
Five Production Featurettes (HD): brief interview vignettes which were used to fashion the above production featurette.
- The Making of Poster (2:55): time lapse photography shows us the artwork being created for the film poster juxtaposed with clips from the movie.
- Mysterious Characters (3:33): the leading actors talk about their characters and director Park Chan-wook also comments on the characters.
- The Director’s Vision (3:28): director Park Chan-wook talks about his working methods and producer Michael Costigan talks how Park interpreted the script.
- Designing the Look (3:02): production designer Therese De Prez discusses the sets and costume designers Kurt Swanson and Bart Mueller discuss the looks for the characters. The leading actors and director also comment on the effectiveness of the sets and costumes.
- Creating the Music (2:39): composer Clint Mansell talks about his work ethic for the piece.
“Becomes the Color” (4:46, HD): song performance by Emily Wells
Theatrical Trailer (2:27, HD) and Three TV Spots (0:32, 0:17, 0:32, HD)
Promo Trailers (HD): The East, Trance, Hitchcock, Phantom, The Oranges.
An oddly gripping little thriller that offers a novel approach to both a coming-of-age story and a shocker, Stoker brings us some tantalizing performances and is just off-kilter enough to keep even the most jaded audience interested up to and including its surprising conclusion. Recommended!
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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