Film review: Stoker is Park Chan-wook's gothic homage to Alfred Hitchcock

(18)

The first English-language film by the Korean director Park Chan-wook – who built his reputation with idiosyncratic, highly stylised and violent thrillers such as Oldboy – is a kind of gothic fairy-tale homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt.

Mia Wasikowska plays India Stoker, a gifted but withdrawn teenager – imagine a more emo Harold from Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude – who lives in a mansion somewhere in the American South.

On her 18th birthday, her beloved father dies in mysterious circumstances; not long after, her charming but somehow sinister uncle (Matthew Goode) comes to stay; and not long after that, further characters disappear in mysterious circumstances. What the story, which was written by Wentworth Miller, the star of TV's Prison Break, lacks in credibility, thematic complexity or substance, the director makes up for with style. And lots of it.

The luxuriant sets are an interior designer's dream; the disjointed narrative structure is able to make up for any shortfall of true suspense; and a series of startling and sensual images give the impression that there might be something original or daring about the film's intimations of incest, or the way it links violence with a young woman's sexual awakening.

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