Director Park Chan-wook's first movie in English may be more conventional than his earlier films, but it's still a sleek, nasty thriller.
The title of Korean director Park Chan-wook's English-language debut, Stoker, may evoke the vampiric, but it is not a reference to Bram and his Dracula. (That's a genre Park already bled dry in his last feature, Thirst.) The inspiration for Stoker instead lies in Alfred Hitchcock and the film he often declared his favorite of his works, Shadow of a Doubt: another bored girl on the cusp of womanhood; another unexpected visit from a faraway yet strangely intimate Uncle Charlie; a few bars of whistling; a smattering of strangulation.
This being Park, of course, the screenplay (by Prison Break's Wentworth Miller) mines darker territory than the Thornton Wilder-penned script of its predecessor. Gone is the happy, small-town family in Santa Rosa, California, replaced by a shattered clan in a chilly, upper-class American anywhere. Introverted 18-year-old India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) has just lost her father (Dermot Mulroney), who was burned to a crisp in a mysterious car accident. Her mother, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), is distant, grieving, quasi-alcoholic. Enter the enigmatic Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who materializes at the outskirts of his brother's funeral, glinting with malice in the afternoon sun.