Channelling the spirit of Hammer House and Tales of the Unexpected, famed Oldboy director Chan-wook Park applies his own disorienting vision to his first English language film, the horror thriller Stoker. Prison Break actor Wentworth Miller impresses with his debut screenplay that begins with the arrival of the mysterious Charles Stoker (Matthew Goode) into the lives of his niece India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) and sister-in-law Evelyn Stoker (Nicole Kidman) following the untimely death of his brother Richard (Dermot Mulroney).
The film’s stylish opening whets the appetite and Park’s intelligent direction continually keeps the audience on the back foot with striking and surrealist visuals that complement the mesmeric lead performances in spite of couple less convincing plot points.
Goode (A Single Man, Watchmen) is magnificent as the creepily charismatic Charlie, whose appearance creates fear and unease among the occupants of the Stoker home. The psychodrama slowly reveals the perma-tanned protagonist’s more sinister side without disclosing Charlie’s real intentions.
Wasikowska (Lawless, Jane Eyre) plays daddy’s girl India with Carrie-esque force. The focus of Charlie’s inappropriate intentions, the teenager is drawn into her Uncle’s macabre world leading to a disturbing mutual infatuation. The movie’s Alice in Wonderland perspectives and innovative audio-tography create a riveting visual soundscape, giving the audience an insight into India and Charlie’s unique worldview.
When Charlie moves into his dead brother’s home the family housekeeper Mrs. McGarrick (Phyllis Somerville) and visiting relative Gwendolyn Stoker (Jacki Weaver) hint at Charlie’s hidden past as they attempt to warn India and her unstable mother Evelyn. As she tries to come between her estranged brother-in-law and India’s disconcerting tryst the willing widow Evelyn, portrayed by the perplexingly indifferent Kidman (Australia, The Golden Compass), is caught up in Charlie’s game of seduction.
A voyeuristic and foreboding treatise on nature/nurture, Stoker is an unsettling tale of dark histories, obsessions and forgotten secrets that doesn’t loosen its grip until the final credits.
Showing at FACT and cinemas across Merseyside
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