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Stoker (Blu-ray Review)

StokerStoker is one of those movies where I had every intention of seeing theatrically, but for whatever unknown reason or another the stars just didn’t align properly in my favor.  Sadly, it came and went and I was forced to wait until now to finally check it out.  In the meantime, I heard so many positive things about it.  However, what really attracted my attention to this body of work is when I found out Prison Break’s Wentworth Miller actually penned the screenplay.  He did so under a pseudonym of Ted Foulke in order to have his work taken seriously, but nevertheless you could say after I learned that I have been “stoked” to check out Stoker.  You see, I’m a huge fan of his an actor so when I found this out I just had to see what all the buzz was about.  It was being lauded as pretty good and to this day the film holds around a 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Considering Man of Steel, a movie so many people seemed divided on, only holds a rating of 56% (keep in mind that Fast & Furious 6 has a 71%), how good or bad can Stoker be?  I was hoping it would be the case of the former, but that’s what we are gathered here to talk about anyway today.  So let the “stoking” begin!

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Film 

So like I said before, Stoker is a psychological thriller film written by former Prison Break sensation, Wentworth Miller, but it’s classified as a psychological thriller.  It’s directed by Park Chan-wook, which marks his English-language debut, and stars Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Demot Mulroney and the infamous Nicole Kidman.  Interestingly enough, Ridley and Tony Scott serve as producers on this film.  However, sadly enough, it was the last film ever produced by Tony, who died shortly after production.  R.I.P. Tony Scott.

So there’s so many people out there, even Miller himself, citing this as work heavily inspired by Hitchcock (most notably Shadow of a Doubt).  After watching it, I can easily agree and see where they’re coming across.  And that’s all fine and dandy, but all those notions and critiques aside, I found Stoker to be uninteresting at times.  Yes, I said it.  I said uninteresting.  However, I say that loosely because Stoker is also a beautifully shot and demented family mystery to be had…to an extent.  And here’s why…

Okay, let’s talk about the boredom piece first.  Maybe I came into this one with way too much hype, but man was I ever bored during certain parts of this film.  I knew I was not watching an action thriller, but I guess was expecting something else more interesting perhaps like a Black Swan kind of feature that people tend to compare this one to.  God bless The Others (I love that film), but in roles like this, I can’t help the fact that I feel Nicole Kidman is typecast in that role and Stoker almost feels like a sequel to her character here with a little bit of 2009‘s The Stepfather thrown in for good hearty measures.  And yes I know, that aforementioned comment will certainly piss a lot of fans of this film off that are reading this review, but hey…I’m just doing my job and telling you how I felt.  Let’s be fair and talk about the story some before I cast even more unfair judgement.  Bwahahaha!

The film all starts out with India Stoker’s (Wasikowska) 18th birthday when her life is suddenly turned upside down after her father, Richard (Mulroney), whom she was very close with as shown through hunting flashbacks, dies in a horrible car accident.  All the sudden her estranged uncle Charlie (Goode) shows up and is allowed to stay indefinitely with India and her mother, Evelyn (Kidman).  It’s only known that he has been traveling the world his whole life.  Things start getting weird as Mrs. McGarrick (Phyllis Somerville), the head housekeeper, goes missing and even aunt Gwendolyn, who came to visit the family, ends up disappearing too.  Now tell me…where oh where can they be?

So this is a hard one to expand upon plot wise because doing so will spoil things for you, but rest assured that the mystery of Stoker is no more brilliant than the revelations we find out in Nolan’s Inception.  If you can’t put two-and-two together as the film trots along slowly, don’t worry…it’s all spelled out for you after a certain character’s past is exposed for the fraud they are.  And that’s all I’ll say about that.  I’m sorry for being so vague, but this is not a choose your own adventure kind of flick.  There’s a straight narrative woven in between the artsiness and quirkiness of it all.  And I say that with the utmost of sincerity too because while the fact that I enjoyed the story is true, it just wasn’t something that felt fresh and for that it suffers the wrath of a lower score than it should have received from me.  Certainly fans of the film will feel completely different than me and I completely applaud them for it because I compare it to my hatred of Serenity where I’m in the minority and I completely accept that.

It’s a well known fact that Miller wrote a prequel to Stoker called Uncle Charlie.  Let me be the first to admit that I would completely have no interest in that one at all.  I know enough.  Okay enough already…onto the disc vitals!

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Video 

Fox brings Stoker to the Blu-ray format with a beautiful and haunting 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encode framed in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  I guess that’s what makes Stoker so beautiful, video-wise, is the fact that’s it’s actually a low budget, indie kind of feeling film shot on 35mm.  Again…I can see where people say it reminds them at times to the warm quality of Black Swan.  The picture looks clean, clear and free of any debris under a fine grain blanket.  I had zero problems with contrast, colors, skin tones and even black levels.  Textures and closeups are all above average in its high-def appearance.  It may not be razor sharp throughout, but there’s no denying how striking Stoker looks on the Blu-ray format.  And as we all know…that’s definitely a good thing as far as we’re concerned!

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Audio 

Like the video section above, there’s very little to nitpick about the audio found here on this Blu-ray too.  Fox delivers us Stoker on Blu-ray with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track.  And this thing is crafty to say the least.  I love when India grinds an eggshell on the kitchen table.  It’s so aurally unique and completely takes you out of the film’s element in an unmistakably good way.   The rears are usually filled with the atmosphere and ambience of the scenes unfolding in front of you.  My only complaint, but it’s not a fault of the disc was that India’s dialogue is spoken really soft at times so although the center track is always clear, her dialogue becomes a strain to hear in a certain scenes…at least for me.  The Blu-ray disc also features a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in a plethora of different languages and many different options for subtitles, too many to even list here.

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Extras 

Stoker arrives on the Blu-ray courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment with a small plethora of extras, but any director commentary or any audio commentary for that matter is sorely missing.  So what do you?  I say let’s take a closer look and unravel the mystery of all the supplements

you’ll find packaged here.

  • An Exclusive Look: A Filmmaker’s Journey (HD, 27:50) – This one is pretty much your one-stop shopping for everything you wanted to know about the making-of Stoker from scouting, screenplay, interviews and what I find most intriguing…how does a director who can’t even speak the English language pull this off?
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 10:01) – There are a total of three deleted/extended scenes here. Yawn.
  • Theatrical Behind The Scenes (HD) – There are five small promos to be found here that consist of the following:
    • “Mysterious Characters” (3:33)
    • “Designing the Look” (3:02)
    • “Creating the Music” (2:39)
    • “Director’s Vision” (3:28)
    • “The Making of the Limited Edition Poster” (2:55)
  • Red Carpet Premiere: Emily Well’s Performance of “Becomes The Color” – From the red carpet obviously.
  • Image Galleries (HD) – Stills from the film’s premiere at the London Theater and photography by Mary Ellen Mark.
  • Free Song Download – There’s a free song download available for Emily Wells’ “Becomes The Color.”
  • UltraViolet – One word…BOO!  What happened to the Digital Copy for iTunes, Fox?!!!  Sure it’s HD, but it’s UV.

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Summary 

There’s no denying that this is a spectacular A/V presentation along with a haunting and sometimes beautiful story in Stoker, but I can’t help feeling like I should put a disclaimer on this one that’s it not for everyone.  Indeed, this may not be your cup of tea.  For anyone that’s a fan, this is a NO-BRAINER MUST-BUY Blu-ray release.  For all others possibly curious in the title, I’d encourage you to give this one a rental first if at all possible.  For you fans…you can purchase the Blu-ray disc here as it just came out this past Tuesday.  Thanks for your patronage and support!  Have a great weekend!

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

2 Responses to “Stoker (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Given that I expected you to hate it, I’m not that surprised at your reaction.

  2. Brian White

    It’s not that I hated it. Quite the contrary. It’s just that it was okay, not a first rate psychological thriller IMO and not something that would have much replay value in my household.