A gothic thriller of sorts, Stoker’s story revolves around India who on her 18th birthday loses her beloved father in a tragic car accident.
A solitary globe swings in the dark revealing flashes of its surrounds, its squeak resembling more a screech. Somewhere lurking in the black, buried under the suffocating weight of laboured cliché, is a better film gasping for air. That this film, titled Stoker, comes from the somewhat worshipped hand of South Korean director Chan-wook Park (Old Boy, Thirst) and is his first foray into English speaking cinema, makes its struggle all the more disappointing. A gothic thriller of sorts, Stoker’s story revolves around India (Mia Wasikowska) who on her 18th birthday loses her beloved father (Dermot Mulroney) in a tragic car accident. She’s left to brood, mope and glower at her fragile, desperate mother (Nicole Kidman) until the hither to unknown. Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) appears. His urbane charm works rather quickly on India’s mother, but there’s something about him India is wary of. And of course, compelled by. She broods, mopes and glowers some more in his direction too. For its obvious take on Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, Stoker is oddly void of any of that film’s suspense as the plot instead plods along attempting to slowly unravel a mystery that never really was to begin with. Park’s talent for crafting an atmosphere from artily stylised visuals (ably assisted by lens man Chung-hoon Chung) at times recalls Lynch, but too often there is lacking any sense of latent menace to truly hold an audience in its grip. The actors do their best to help things along, but like their director and the film in whole, fall prey to serious flaws in pacing and script. In the end, Stoker fails to stoke anything more than a thin wisp of smoke where there could have and should have been a full-blown fire of passion and danger.