BY DAN METCALF
Clipper Film Correspondent
Rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content.
Starring Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich, Phyllis Somerville, Ralph Brown, Judith Godrèche.
Written by Wentworth Miller and Erin Cressida Wilson.
Directed by Chan-wook Park.
Everyone has a creepy relative. Sometimes those odd family members can have a negative influence on the entire group, and sometimes the “black sheep” rubs off on others. That's the premise of Stoker, Korean director Park Chan-Wook's English-speaking debut film about an evil uncle's influence over his eccentric 18-year-old niece.
Mia Wasikowska plays India Stoker, an odd teen-aged girl raised by an imaginative father (Dermott Mulrooney) and cold-hearted socialite mother (Nicole Kidman). After the untimely death of India's father in an apparent car crash, her father's brother Charlie (Matthew Goode) comes to visit during the funeral. Uncle Charlie has been away for several years, supposedly traveling the world. His negative influence over other the Stoker estate staff and extended family is immediately felt, and some of them begin to disappear under mysterious circumstances.
India suspects Charlie is behind some of the disappearances, but is nevertheless drawn to his charms. As she discovers that Uncle Charlie may be a serial murderer with a disturbing past, she is torn between disgust and fascination over his macabre ways. She must decide whether to embrace her own hereditary evil tendencies or to follow a different path.
“Stoker” is a Gothic horror tale with a lot of similarities to Hitchcock's classic “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943). The antagonist in both films is named Uncle Charlie and both characters may or may be serial killers. Park Chan-Wook's interpretation of Wentworth Miller and Erin Cressida Wilson's script may or may not be an homage to Hitchcock, but such comparisons shouldn't detract from “Stoker's” superb tension and brilliant cinematography.
Matthew Goode is especially brilliant as the creepy Uncle Charlie, while Mia Wasikowska's quirky performance is more than adequate. Kidman turns in her usual competent performance, but her presence doesn't add much to the movie, despite her star qualities.
“Stoker” is rated R for a fair amount of disturbing violence and one scene of sexuality involving Wasikowska.
“Stoker” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and opened Friday at The Broadway Centre Theater in Salt Lake City (111 E Broadway).