Of all the films that might come down the pike, Stoker was exactly the kind you wouldn’t expect: a loose remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, written by one of the actors from Prison Break, directed by the South Korean auteur behind the “revenge” trilogy (Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Old Boy and Lady Vengeance), and starring rising star Mia Wasikowska and Oscar winner Nicole Kidman. Yet the intriguing combination of cast, crew and source material is nothing compared to the intrigue of Stoker itself, a chilling and fitfully thrilling psychodrama, which succeeds not just in channeling the spirit of Hitchcock, but also in creating a 21st century film worthy of the old master himself.
Wasikowska, who has proven herself one of the finest actors of her generation, is perfectly cast as India Stoker, a troubled soul whose 18th birthday celebrations are tragically cut short by the news that her father has been killed in a freak car accident. While her mother, Evelyn (Kidman), wanders their brooding country estate like the ghost of Rebecca, India’s mysterious Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) arrives for the funeral, his good looks, rakish charm and Cheshire Cat smile concealing a tantalizingly malevolent presence to which India and Evelyn are separately and inexorably drawn. ‘Uncle Charlie’ is, of course, Joseph Cotton’s mysterious, sinister character from Shadow of a Doubt, but writer Wentworth Miller (who plays Michael Scofield in Prison Break) is only loosely inspired by Hitchcock’s wartime family drama, expertly crafting a fresh, darkly funny and seductively serpentine script that drip-feeds the audience a growing sense of dread, while Park packs every frame with the tiniest physical details, ratcheting up the tension until the thrilling, violent and shocking climax. With his first English language feature, Park has distilled an enticing, seductive and intoxicating cocktail of psychological horror, slow-burning sexual tension and Southern Gothic. ★★★★★