Connect with us

Film

Looking back at ‘Stoker’ and the reoccurring case of the disappointing third act

Chan-wook Park’s Stoker is a Gothic fairytale, a family drama and a beautifully twisted, pitch black coming of age story, all at once. This slow-burning psychological thriller isn’t afraid to cross into uncomfortable places, often edging close to taboo territory. Park wants his audience to twitch in their seats and the master director is able to accomplish this with the greatest of ease. Along with first-time screenwriter Wentworth Miller, Park weaves a coming-of-age tale through a tangled, murderous family plot, loaded with sexual subtext and upper-class entitlement. People disappear, a landscape of family secrets is revealed, and Park teases the audience into anticipating the worst. With Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Shadow of a Doubt serving as a template, Stoker’s first two acts are without a doubt impeccably crafted. The problem comes in the third act. Its script doesn’t quite carry the dramatic heft of his earlier work, much less Hitchcock’s 1943 masterpiece.

What starts as a film that is stylishly spooky and effectively eerie, with an air of quiet eroticism, quickly shifts into a TV movie of the week, with a third act plagued with explanation, exposition, and exploitation. The movie works best when it retains its mystery by withholding information, and allows that information to be disclosed in tiny increments. A great deal of information is withheld at the start, and not just from the audience but from our protagonist, India, as well. But the revelations in the final scenes are a tad disappointing. In Stoker’s third act, all the buildup is overshadowed with some leaps in plausibility and worse, character logic.

c_scalefl_progressiveq_80w_800

The majority of the pic’s running time feels somewhat like a surreal fantasy, and one could assume the events that unfold may be figments of India’s own feverish imagination. As India sets out to explore forbidden grounds and dark secrets, she becomes lost in her sexual awakening. This isn’t the case for the final few scenes, which take the viewers away from India’s home, her eyes and her mind, and presents us with flashbacks that outright dismiss the possibility that Stoker can be interpreted as a fervid dream. Learning Uncle Charlie’s backstory only turns the movie upside down and over on its head. So in assessing Stoker, one must ask if all the talent on display is enough to dismiss a plot that feels forced, mannered and, ultimately, empty. While individual scenes removed are poetically horrifying and beautifully rendered, as a whole, Stoker is silly.

When the credits roll, if questions are left unanswered, it can be a good thing, depending on what an audience is asking. But when those questions challenge the character motivations, reactions, and decisions, it can leave viewers frustrated. The end result is a film less interested in narrative suspense than in carefully orchestrated cross-cutting and meticulous framing. It is said that Park did not have final cut and was forced to edit out 20 minutes of the film. One can’t help but wonder what kind of film Park might have made if he’d had the full creative control. One can’t help to also wonder why Hollywood would even hire such a talent if they did not have faith in him. Park has made it clear in interviews that there were disagreements between him and the studio (Fox Searchlight), and so instead, we have this movie; a film which had the potential to be a masterpiece if not torn between Park’s idiosyncratic vision and Hollywood’s unwillingness to taking risks.

Ricky D

stoker-1024

Written By

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast, I edit, and I design websites. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Goomba Stomp and Tilt Magazine. Host of the Sordid Cinema Podcast and NXpress Nintendo Podcast. Former Editor-In-Chief of Sound On Sight, and host of several podcasts including the Game of Thrones and Walking Dead podcasts, as well as Sound On Sight. There is nothing I like more than basketball, travelling, and animals. You can find me online writing about anime, TV, movies, games and so much more.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Facebook

Trending

Anti-War Anti-War

Three Bestselling Anti-War Novels, Three A-List Film Adaptations…Three Flops:  Castle Keep, Catch-22, Slaughterhouse-Five

Culture

Vesper poster Vesper poster

Vesper: Sci-Fi That Thinks Big With Limited Means

Culture

Unforgiven movie review Unforgiven movie review

Unforgiven Ushered the Western into its Afterlife 

Culture

Your Full List of All Upcoming Marvel Movies Your Full List of All Upcoming Marvel Movies

A Full List Of Upcoming Marvel Studios Film And TV Releases

Culture

Robocop 1987 Robocop 1987

RoboCop is a Social Satire That Gets More Relevant With Age

Film

Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues

Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues

Comics

Nope Nope

Jordan Peele’s Nope Explained: A Spectacle of “Bad Miracles”

Film

Alex's War (2022) Alex's War (2022)

Alex’s War, a Documentary Study of Alex Jones, Misses the Big Picture 

Film

Signs movie review Signs movie review

M. Night Shyamalan Signs Finds Comfort at the End of the World

Film

All Out 2022 Predictions All Out 2022 Predictions

Way Too Early Predictions for All Out 2022

Wrestling

Biography: WWE Legends’ Look at Goldberg is One of the Best Wrestling Documentaries Ever 

TV

Detective vs Sleuths Detective vs Sleuths

Detective vs. Sleuths: Buckle Up for a Bumpy Ride

Culture

Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop 1987 Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop 1987

Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop is an Anti-Fascist Classic 

Film

Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con

Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con 2022: A Full Recap

Culture

High Noon at 70: When Time is of the Essence

Features

Bullet Train movie review Bullet Train movie review

Bullet Train Makes All the Wrong Stops

Culture

Connect