|Nicole Kidman & Matthew Goode in Stoker|
As Charlie and Evelyn grow closer, India becomes interested in Whip, a student at her school. Another relative visits, and attempts to warn the women about Charlie, with tragic results. Things aren’t what they seem for any of these characters. Charlie’s motives are far more devious than they appear on the surface, and the complex India may have some secrets of her own. The jumping off point for this intriguing film is the Alfred Hitchcock classic, Shadow of A Doubt (1943). In that tale, Joseph Cotten starred as another Uncle Charlie, who also visited his family, and whose easygoing demeanor hid a darker truth. In fact, this story’s Charlie is named in homage to Cotten’s character in that Hitchcock film. There’s also more than a touch of the movie The Bad Seed (1956) on display in the story here as well.
Mia Wasikowska (who played the title role Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and was also featured in Guillermo Del Toro's Crimson Peak) is very good as India, finding just the right balance between innocence and sensuality. Matthew Goode is excellent as the smooth talking, devious Charlie. And Nicole Kidman is outstanding as Evelyn, who is initially drawn in by Charlie’s charming ways, but later terrified upon learning his true nature. The film is visually striking, with some startling images of beauty and horror, thanks to the fine work of cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon. The evocative score is by Clint Mansell, and there’s a great choice of songs used in the background of a couple of key scenes. The screenplay is by actor Wentworth Miller, who's best known for appearing in the TV series Prison Break, The Flash and DC's Legends of Tomorrow. The film marked the American debut of Korean director Park Chan-wook, best known for The Vengeance Trilogy.
To say much more about this film would give away too many of its twists and turns. This is a fascinating and mysterious psychological thriller. If there’s any problem with the the movie, it’s that you may find it a little hard to sympathize with any of the characters. But that’s a minor quibble with this eerie, unusual tale. If you’re a fan of the TV series Bates Motel, American Horror Story or Twin Peaks, you’ll probably enjoy this offbeat film. The movie is well worth a look if you've run out of options on your Netflix, Hulu or DVR queues. Stoker is available on Blu-ray, DVD and for digital download. Here’s a link to the film’s trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXaanQkzrXU.