Stoker (2013)

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, Alden Ehrenreich, Phyllis Somerville, Jacki Weaver

Directed by: Chan-wook Park

Rating: 1 2 3 4

'Lines form on my face and hands
Lines form from the ups and downs
I'm in the middle without any plans...'
Alice Cooper, I'm Eighteen
Mia Wasikowska as India Stoker in  Chan-Wook Park's Stoker

Ever wondered what happened to Wednesday Addams when she turned eighteen? Here's your chance to find out.

With her long dark hair, porcelain pale complexion and old fashioned, buttoned up wardrobe, India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) is your classic geeky teenage misfit loner, a poster child for that uncomfortable transition from youth to adulthood, both awkward and devastatingly self-assured in one.

Matthew Goode as Uncle Charlie and Mia Wasikowska as India in Stoker

When her beloved father dies in mysterious circumstances, India's life with her wilting Southern Bell of a mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of her alluringly handsome Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), whose existence she has never known about. Suave, well-travelled and sophisticated, Uncle Charlie is charm personified – but when staff and family members start strangely disappearing, it soon becomes apparent that there's a dark side to him – and it's calling out something similarly sinister in his adolescent niece. The question is: is she bovvered?

Lush yet chilling, torrid yet restrained. Stoker is a coldly fascinating dissection of a young girl's passage to adulthood as she discovers who she really is, a masterful reworking of the good ol' Southern Gothic themes of murder, incest and dark family secrets.

Nicole Kidman as Evelyn Stoker and Matthew Goode as Charlie in Stoker

Mia Wasikowska is perfectly cast as the inscrutable India, as is Matthew Goode as the insidious Uncle Charlie, although Nicole Kidman is slightly on autopilot as the spoilt, self-centred and ultimately rather stupid widow. True, it's hard to care overly about this unsympathetic incestuous trio, and there's a fatal inevitability to the story that makes the climax fairly predictable. Yet unravelling the mysteries seems of secondary importance to the oppressive, voyeuristic atmosphere that pervades the film. Dense layering of sounds and images echoes the heightened sense and emotions of youth, while a seamless mix of unfolding action and flashback emphasises the past's cyclical intrusion on the present.

Part Faulknerian sweaty Southern family horror, part Tim Burton dark fairy tale, part Hitchcock-inspired thriller of paranoia and misplaced trust (the shower scene is an obvious tongue-in-cheek ahomage), Stoker is, as its name implies, a twisted treat for fans of the gothic and macabre. The vampires may be strictly of the psychic kind, but as a tale of innocence preyed upon and hunted turning hunter, it follows firmly in the footsteps of Dracula.

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