A spider crawls up the leg of 18-year-old India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) early in Park Chan-wook's English-language debut, "Stoker," and she regards it passively, intrigued.

There's a creepy intruder in the Stokers' handsome, isolated estate, but it's India's Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), whose existence India was unaware of until he arrived following the death of her father (Dermot Mulroney) in a mysterious car accident. Dashing, cultured and oozing melodramatic evil, he's an homage to Joseph Cotton's Uncle Charlie — a murder in a suit jacket at the dinner table — from Alfred Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt."

Park, the celebrated South Korean filmmaker of stylistic, hyper-violent revenge tales ("Oldboy," ''Lady Vengeance") has long drawn Hitchcock comparisons. In "Stoker," he makes them explicit, with references not just to "Shadow of a Doubt," but "Psycho" and maybe even "The Birds," if we can agree that Hitchcock forever owns violent attacks in phone booths.

The plot outlines of "Stoker" from the screenplay by Wentworth Miller, a TV actor and star of "Prison Break," share some of the basics of the nifty "Shadow of a Doubt" and countless other thrillers, but it's emphatically a Park film. In his first Hollywood movie, there isn't even a slight dip in his brilliant, colorful compositions (with his usual cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung), his grisly flesh tearing, or his extreme warping of genre.

But the question with Park (whose "Oldboy" will later this year be released as a remake by Spike Lee) is whether his genre contortions are purely for the fetishistic pleasure of seeing characters and bodies — movies — mangled and bloodied. "Stoker" certainly relies too much on its heavy Gothic atmosphere, but it does add up to something — particularly because of Wasikowska's deft performance.

"Stoker" begins in a lush montage of rhythmic freeze frames of India, with an ominous police car in the background, ruminating in a voice-over about her nature: "Just as a flower doesn't choose its color, we don't choose what we are going to be." The foreshadowing sets the tone for a pulpy coming of age story, where India's transition into womanhood comes via incestuous desires and buried corpses.

With stringy black hair shrouding her face, India is a dour, intelligent introvert — a kind of Victorian shadow of Wasikowska's Jane Eyre. She doesn't like to be touched, not even by her mom (Nicole Kidman), and her acute sensitivity picks up the whispers at her father's funeral, the thundering tick of a metronome and (in one of the many heavy symbols of India's maturation) her loud cracking of a hardboiled eggshell, rolled on a table.

Charlie has an immediate, eerie interest in India. He stays at the house, and a lurid triangle forms between Charlie, India and her mother, Evelyn. Evelyn throws herself at Charlie, who all the while is eyeing India. Visitors like India's aunt (Jacki Weaver) quickly disappear, some on screen and some off.

Park rarely metes out violence with guns, preferring more tactile gruesomeness with objects like scissors or a hammer. Here employed to bloody ends are a rock, a pencil and a belt.

The movie has a dreamy, heightened air. The dialogue is arch and the whole affair is over-the-top; certain moments of sexual release are tacky and unforgettable. The melodrama doesn't rise to Pedro Almodovar levels of sublime, but to intoxicating macabre outlandishness.

The Charlie and Everlyn characters veer too far into camp. Making the best of it are Goode and Kidman, who, with last year's "The Paperboy," has paired two of the most hothouse movies you'll ever see. Their characters aren't anything like real people, and it's such aspects of "Stoker" that make it seem like a mere provocation, one that only marvels at how splayed blood looks on crimson wallpaper.

But Park keeps his cameras close to Wasikowska, whose breathless uncertainty — Is Charlie a spider to shoo or embrace? What kind of flower is she? — propels the film, saving it from becoming suffocated in its masterly formalism.

"Stoker" is an exquisitely made grotesque that crawls up your leg.

"Stoker," a Fox Searchlight release, is rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content. Running time: 98 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

___

Motion Picture Association of America rating definition for R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

___

Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle

About News.net

Publishing Services International Limited (PSIL) is the publisher and operator of a worldwide network of online news sites dedicated to delivering fair, accurate and relevant reporting from a variety of the world’s most trusted sources – from the biggest cities to the smallest towns.

We deliver positive and powerful messages to our readers, providing up‑to‑the‑second news that matters to the individual.

Our promise is to serve communities and individuals worldwide, delivering information that hasn’t always been available to them. We will give them back a voice – a voice that’s empowering because it is theirs – and provide a platform to communicate between themselves and the world.

We believe people are not just generic demographics; they are individuals with their own preferences and curiosities. We are about understanding these individuals, listening to them, and serving them.

We are the new pioneering spirit of news – we’re not talking to everyone, we’re talking with every one.

If you want your news, your voice, your way, on your time – we’ve got news for you.

 

FAQs

Email

If you have any questions or concerns please email us on support@news.net

Phone

  • Australia, Toll Free 1-800-983-421
  • Hong Kong, Toll Free 800-906-187
  • Singapore, Toll Free 800-852-3871
  • USA/Canada, Toll Free 1-800-830-4132

Advertise With Us

Interested in being awesome?
Contact us by email or phone.

Cancel