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“Stoker” is one of the worst movies I have ever seen.
This review is rife with spoilers.
For starters, although it’s called “Stoker” there is no reference to Bram Stoker and/or Draculas, which should be a crime. An absolute crime.
Like a lot of horror, the movie is intensely exploitative of female sexuality, and dismissive of female characters. The protagonist, India, is defined primarily by the fact that she has acute senses and knows how to handle a gun. What are her hobbies and interests? They’re never really gone into. Her mother is a spoiled, wealthy woman who does none of the work associated with being a wife or mother. She doesn’t cook or clean, she despises her husband and seems to actively hate and resent her daughter. She speaks fluent French and plays piano and wears fancy, expensive clothing and probably went to finishing school and hates living in the rural mansion staffed with paid help. Her eighteen year old daughter plays piano, but seemingly shares none of her other refinements.
The movie opens with India exploring the immense and well manicured grounds of her large and well appointed home, looking for her hidden birthday present. When she finds it, stashed in a tree, it’s not the pair of saddle shoes she normally gets. Rather, it’s a mysterious key. Conversation with her grandmother confirms that it wasn’t the grandma who stashed the presents every year, as India had assumed. Nor was it her distant mother, nor her recently dead father. Perhaps it’s because this is a horror movie, perhaps it’s because India is surrounded by negligent jerks, but nobody questions who it is that’s been stashing shoes in her size in various hidden places around the house for her entire life. Some people would find that creepy, but not India or her family. It’s just a thing that happens. Perhaps this is a symptom of wealth, to simply take for granted that perfect gifts appear at times from invisible hands?
At her architect father’s funeral, India meets her uncle Charlie for the first time. She didn’t know he existed until that point, but he’s come to help “support” the family. He claims to be a world traveler who’s been too busy traveling to visit the family. Or call. Or email. Or anything. India’s mom doesn’t second guess any of this, because she’s too busy fucking him with her eyes over the newly dug grave. Charlie moves into their enormous house. India sees him arguing with the head housekeeper (they have so much staff they need someone to manage the staff) who later vanishes, which isn’t at all suspicious or unusual. India’s mother reacts with anger. She’s so put upon! How dare the person who’s worked for them for 18 years not show up for work. Doesn’t anyone know how she suffers? Charlie cooks then dinner and sits there, plate full of still-bleeding meat, and watches them eat without eating any himself.
India’s mother discovers that Charlie is staying with them and tells India’s mother that she needs to speak with her about Charlie. Mummy assumes that Granny is an old hag out to split her from her One True Love and refuses to talk to her.
India discovers the housekeeper’s body in the freezer, but doesn’t tell anyone.
Charlie kills India’s grandmother– his mother– who India is close to, and burries her in the back yard.
Charlie lies and tells India’s mom he doesn’t know how to play piano and she “gives him lessons.” Later he plays a grope-y, panting duet with India, his niece, who is only a few days over the age of 18. And I assume she recently celebrated her 18th birthday so everyone involved with the movie can point their fingers and say LOOK. SEE. SHE IS 18. IT’S OK. SHE IS AN ADULT. IT’S ALL GOOD. India doesn’t like to be touched, except by her creepy uncle. India is sexually harassed by bullies at school. A male classmate tries to rape India and Charlie murders him. India helps Charlie bury the kid in the backyard. India realizes Charlie murdered and buried her grandmother.
India, filthy and sobbing, jerks off in the shower as she pictures Charlie murdering her rapist.
This is the kind of movie “Stoker” is. It’s a movie that takes a female character and, professing to be about her sexual awakening or whatever, exploits teen girls, teen sexuality. “Stoker” is a movie comfortable with an adult male predating upon his blood relative. “Stoker” is a movie in love with rape as motivation, as plot piece, as random thing that happens.
India doesn’t tell anyone.
When the Sheriff comes by to question her about her rapist’s disappearance, she lies to protect her uncle, who killed her grandmother.
India realizes the key opens a locked door in her father’s desk. In it, she discovers a cache of photographs of her father and Charlie… and another boy. She discovers a huge stack of letters Charlie wrote to her from her infancy, never delivered to her. They are adoring love letters, love letters written by an adult man to an infant, a toddler, a child, a pre-teen, a teen-ager. Letters of love and sensuality written to a minor, to a blood relative. This is what the movie is. This is what “Stoker” presents to us, the viewer: sexual predation and exploitation as voyeuristic titillation.
India is pleased with and aroused by the letters, because she was written by a Lizard Person who has no concept of how human beings actually work, think, function.
Then she realizes they came not from Africa and Europe and Asia but all originated in the local mental asylum, where Charlie’s been a patient.
She confronts him and he fesses up. He had a younger brother. He killed his younger brother, fairly gruesomely. His parents dumped a bunch of money on the local mental hospital and he’s been living a cushy life there learning French and playing piano and writing fantasy letters to his minor niece and imagining fucking her. He’s been dealing with the head housekeeper, who was giving him India’s shoe size and stashing the gifts and keeping tabs on her and reporting on her to Charlie… and one might ask WHY she did this, what was her motivation, was Charlie paying her and if so where did he get the money, and how did India’s parents, who were receiving the letters, deal with this? How did they not figure out someone in their employ was a super fucking creeper? Charlie gives India a pair of Laboutins, red soles and all, her first pair of high heels.
It’s symbolism, you know. She sticks her dainty feet in those high heels just like he wants to stick his dick in her. She trades her childish saddleshoes for the sexy high heels her uncle gives her. She puts away her childish things.
She decides she’s going to take off with Charlie. Her mom spills bile across her, speaks words of rage and anger and jealousy. Of course.
Charlie tries to rape her mom.
India shoots Charlie.
IT TURNS OUT: her father took her hunting so often so she’d know how to handle a gun so she could shoot Charlie. Because that’s the best way for him to protect her. Not to tell her about Charlie. Not to get Charlie committed some place (he apparently was just hanging out in the asylum because he wanted to and was free to leave at any time). Not to actually deal with the problem. Just teach her how to shoot a gun.
She’s figured out that Charlie killed her father, bashed his head in with a rock, and made it look like a car accident… something nobody questioned. Nobody at all. Because getting your head bashed in with a rock looks exactly like a car crash, and nobody questioned that daddy dearest picked up his insane murderous brother from the mental institute before having his “accident” and brother was nowhere to be found.
She buries Charlie in the backyard.
She doesn’t go to the cops. She doesn’t show them the letters, the photos. She doesn’t tell them that Charlie killed her dad, the house keeper, her grandma, the boy. She doesn’t pin all the blame on him, claim she was terrified for her life, escape scot free.
No. She gets Charlie’s wallet which has money and keys and a map to his pre-paid for one year apartment in New York and speeds away. She gets pulled over and inexplicably, for no reason, murders the Sheriff who pulls her over.
The only thing in this movie’s defense is that it’s pretty. There’s a scene where blood sprays across a flower, changing its color, and its elegant and beautiful. But everything else about this movie is crap unless you firmly believe that women are vague ciphers who flip out and do murder at no provocation and incest is totes normal and cool PS let’s have some more guilty murderbation in the shower.
I’m trying really hard to figure out why so many people like this movie and I just can’t. It enraged me. It’s all about a girl, a girl barely 18, being preyed upon by her uncle and ignored by almost all the other adults in her life. She doesn’t tell anyone that bad things are happening. There’s hardly any HER there. She has very little personality, very little that defines her. She barely exists, except as a thing for men to prey on, and then to “snap” and murder men. She’s a barely fleshed out male fantasy/fear: the docile naive sex-toy who, it turns out, has teeth. I’m surprised she didn’t castrate anyone.
I originally started a 1-5 star system for these movies. I would give this movie negative stars if I could. This movie is so awful that I went back and bumped up the ratings of other movies because, while they had their flaws, at least they weren’t THIS movie.
I’m really tired of movies, horror or not, that hold women in such contempt.
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