*Warning: Mild spoilers ahead.*
One could argue there's nothing subtle about the movies made by South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook, the director behind "Oldboy," including the celebrated 'Vengeance Trilogy' and the loopy vampire movie, "Thirst." Violence reigns in his films, cameras pirouette like self-conscious characters in his ensemble, and style is king. But in the past, especially in "Oldboy" and "Sympathy For Lady Vengeance," his penchant for the outrageous and over-the-top always included sublime, comically brutal and sometimes even emotionally devastating conclusions that could leave the jaw agape. Style was always in service of a story and characters.
But all his worst tendencies for the histrionic and overly operatic are on utterly garish display in the overwrought and tonally poisoned "Stoker." There's myriad problems evinced within the picture, starting with a familiar and often painful script by Wentworth Miller that holds no mystery, suspense or surprise (or at least that's how it's constructed on screen, which is odd for a thriller). Stylized to death, "Stoker" is so hermetically sealed and clinical in its visual presentation that it sucks what little life it possesses out of the room with the repeated violent woosh of unnecessary swish pans. Worse, the movie carries plenty of random and absurd nonsense that doesn't seem to fit.
d asshole jock (Lucas Till), but luckily is saved by the slightly less cliché, sensitive Marlon Brando type (Alden Ehrenreich). Harmony Korine plays an art teacher for half a second for some reason. Aunt Ginnie (Jacki Weaver) shows up, seemingly desperate to talk to Evie in private, but soon she mysteriously disappears.
In a Hitchcock film, this murder would be accomplished with ominous hints, but in a Park Chan-wook film, she's killed loud and clear by Charlie in bloody fashion (for some reason, Charlie seems fascinated with his dead brother's belt, so this becomes his weapon of choice). While we're here, let's put a moratorium on violent, animal-kingdom-like footage on TV sets in the background moments before someone is obviously going to be killed. "Stoker" is like a teenager that can't keep a secret and telegraphs every move from a mile away. And the film goes on and on like this, going from just plain silly and laughably absurd to cartoonish and excruciating in its final overkill act.
Victorian Gothic in flavor, "Stoker" is Hitchcock's "Shadow Of A Doubt" on the type of steroids that make WWE wrestlers murder their families out of nowhere. This is not a compliment. Beyond being ridiculous, logic just seems to fail "Stoker" at times. The Stoker family lives in a magnificently-kept mansion, but their basement where the ice-cream is stored is apparently the dungeon from some "Saw"-esque horror movie, awash with freaky lights and all. Why Nicole Kidman's lounging room looks like the botanical garden from a David Lynch movie is a mystery. And why she announces out of nowhere that she's going to the hair dresser's and then comes back with a shorn hairdo is a riddle for the ages that will never be solved.