Movie review – Stoker: Something wicked this way comes

2013-05-12 14:00

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Wrought in the darkness of the mind is a thriller that titillates and unsettles to perfection, writes Gayle Edmunds

Sinister, strange and compelling is the best description of Chan-wook Park’s latest filmic contribution, Stoker. It’s not about Bram Stoker, but it

does share that writer’s gift for Gothic horror.

Co-written by Wentworth Miller, best known as the star of Prison Break; and Erin Cressida Wilson, who wrote Secretary (basically 50 Shades of Grey in the office), it is impossible to tear your eyes away from their disturbing creation.

India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) loses her father, the only member of her family who understood her. Now she is trapped in her family home with her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), who clings tenuously to sanity.

Then an enigmatic uncle, Charlie (Matthew Goode), turns up. His presence sends the servants into a gossiping fluster and frightens India’s aunt Gwendolyn (Jacki Weaver). Evelyn and India simply never knew this mystery man existed.

India, considered clever but weird by everyone, finds herself more and more fascinated with Charlie, who, like her father, seems to understand her

quirks better than she even understands them herself.

Her uncle tries to endear himself to her by turning up to fetch her from school in his sports car, but she is unmoved by such gestures, at first, but soon his dark charm offensive begins to break through.

There is a claustrophobic atmosphere that reigns throughout the film. India is stifled, but the viewer can’t quite work out why, Charlie, too, is holding back.

It seems Evelyn is the only one giving herself the freedom to follow her desires.

Park is so very clever and subtle in uncovering the terrible truth of the Stoker family. He teases as he agitates at the edges of the viewer’s mind,

ever ready to reveal another layer of this complex story.

Wilson’s writing is felt in the deviant desire that threatens to wash the uneasy threesome away. The characters respond inappropriately, making the viewer wriggle in discomfort.

Wasikowska, who rebooted Jane Eyre for a new generation, gives another performance of breathtaking depth. She is completely serene, yet manages to exhibit a wealth of emotion almost imperceptibly.

Kidman is always a powerful force in a film, though Evelyn is almost wraithlike. Portraying this is key to the story. Goode is an under-the-radar actor who does explosive work – like in the remake of Brideshead Revisited and A Single Man. Here he keeps the viewer guessing until the end as to what’s really going on in happy-go-lucky Charlie’s handsome head.

We’ve just had Trance, so it seems gluttonous to feast on two such singular thriller treats in a matter of a fortnight. But in case there is a famine to come, make sure you dine on this dangerous piece of cinema.

Film: Stoker (Nu Metro)

Director: Chan-wook Park

Featuring: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Jacki Weaver and Matthew Goode

Rating: 7/10

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