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Review: ‘Stoker’ an eerie, intriguing piece of cinematography

Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Thrill seekers beware: “Stoker” doesn’t offer much in the way of blood-pumping suspense, but it’s still just creepy enough to reel you in. 

The film, which released March 1, gives off an eerie aura from the moment the screen lights up. Music, cinematography and special-effects editing all work together to make the opening credit sequence one that teases later events without making them too obvious, keeping audience intrigue at an all-time high for the remainder of the film.

“Stoker” follows India Stoker, a teen dealing with the recent death of her father when her mysterious uncle Charlie, whom she’s never met, comes to live with her and her mother (played by Nicole Kidman). After Charlie’s arrival, India begins to become infatuated with him and his suspicious behavior. 

The main cast members add their own touches of darkness and mystery to keep the chills rolling up and down your spine throughout the entire film. Though I initially lost all interest in this film when I learned Mia Wasikowska was portraying India, my mind hastily changed as soon as she appeared on screen. It became obvious that the star of the 2010 film “Alice in Wonderland” does have serious acting chops and should not at all be judged by that horrifyingly whimsical attempt at a film that turned into a 3-D nightmare. I definitely learned my lesson, and this film places Wasikowska at the top of my favorites list.

Though Wasikowska is instantly recognizable, another cast member was someone I had never seen before. Whoever ultimately decided on casting the relatively unknown Matthew Goode as Charles Stoker, India’s long lost uncle and the main perpetrator of chills for this movie, deserves a nod of recognition. By picking someone with a face that can only be described as unrecognizable yet somehow creepily familiar, the film’s level of eeriness automatically doubled. Anyone else would have brought all of their past roles to this movie, and the overall effect would have been diminished quite a bit. Even though I had no idea who he was before, I will not forget Goode’s icy glare or calm and cool demeanor anytime soon.

The editing that went into putting this film together also deserves a mention. There are several parts of the movie that involve a variety of different things happening to different characters all at once, and the way these scenes are edited together kept the film from becoming a jumbled mess. There are nearly seamless transitions between a brutal murder, its raw and emotional aftermath and an awkward family dinner, and these segments surprisingly fit together into one big moment of appalling terror that couldn’t have appeared any other way.

A huge aspect of this film is India’s sexual evolution as she transitions from a teenager to a mature woman, and it’s done in an incredibly tasteful and symbolic way through the changing of shoes or the playing of a piano. Though it can be argued that some of these scenes become slightly uncomfortable once you become aware of what’s happening, they are truly necessary to move the plot forward as a whole. These sections take this film from a campy thriller to a piece of art, obscure symbolism and all. 

Even though audiences might be expecting the typical Hollywood scare tactics when they see this film, they won’t find a single one. Instead, this film employs a method of horror that is all too realistic: the utter transformation of someone’s psyche and a loss of innocence that proves deadly.


Grade: A

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