Although there are certainly a lack of likable characters, "Stoker" gets points off the spookily edgy presentation of it's subject matter, and from the great performance and characterization of the seemingly fragile lead's Uncle Charlie, and enigmatic charmer with a killer smile and a lifetime's worth of secrets.
Young India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) is thrown off balance by her father's death and the appearence of her mysterious Uncle (Matthew Goode,) who evokes feelings in her of... what? Yearning? Anger? Sadness? A beast lurking just below the surface, waiting to jump out and take over?
India's needy mother cannot understand her daughter, and it seems India's father was the only one who could reach her, primarily through long hunting trips. Uncle Charlie has a stalker-ish way of following pale, serious India around and popping up behind her, but is India the victim of his strange desires?
The dialogue of "Stoker" is very chilly and stylized, and sometimes hard to buy into %100. The cinematography is beautiful. From a Daddy Longlegs crawling up the heroine's socked leg to the popping of a blister, director Chan-Woo Park seems to tap into the beauty lingering behind every image.
Later in the film, I was starting to feel like Uncle Charlie's motivations were annoyingly unclear, a setback that even Matthew Goode's astonishing acting could not fix. By the end, I had mixed feelings. One one hand, Charlie was a fascinating character.
On the other, his motivations didn't go much deeper past the initial obsession. I know the 'traumatic childhood' trope is a bit of a cliche, but give me something here!
"Stoker" is a chilling, restrained, and altogether visually sumptuous work of art. Matthew Goode is a dominating presence among a good cast including Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, and "The Silver Linings Playbook"'s Jacki Weaver.
I recommend this for people who are familiar with Chan-Woo Park's Korean films and want to see the director do something new and different should give "Stoker" a shot. Those that aren't may still find a lot to like in this Gothic chiller.