Available from June 18 until October 31, 2013, at Rogers On Demand (Channel 100).
The opening image is of a spider crawling up a girl’s leg. Welcome to Modern Gothic.
With a nod to Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch, Stoker is one of the most devious and exhilarating psychological thrillers in years. Taking place in an isolated Southern mansion, it seduces you with beautiful, lyrical imagery until you slowly begin to realize there’s something distinctly off-kilter about this particular family.
India (Mia Wasikowska, Alice In Wonderland, Jane Eyre) is a reclusive young woman about to celebrate her 18th birthday. She doesn’t like to be touched, and spends a great deal of time wandering alone in the surrounding countryside. Her father has just died in a strange car accident, and an uncle (Matthew Goode), whom she has never met, abruptly appears, ingratiating himself to the family. He first beguiles her mother (Nicole Kidman, in one of her best recent roles) and then begins to take a more-than-passing interest in India.
In a scene destined to become a classic, the niece and uncle play a dream-like piano duet that becomes increasingly sensual (with haunting music by veteran composer Philip Glass). Then people begin to disappear. There’s a family secret. And a secret cache of letters.
Aside from Wasikowska, who delivers an unerringly chilling performance, much of the credit belongs to South Korean director Park Chan-wook, best known for the cult favourite Oldboy (which won the Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix in 2004, and is currently being remade in English). Though Stoker is Chan-wook’s first English-language feature, his fluid directorial style gives this macabre thriller a deeply disturbing elegance. It’s a stylish and sinister stunner.