Director: Chan-wook Park
MPAA Rating: R
Studio: Scott Free Productions, Indian Paintbrush
Screenwriter Wentworth Miller and director Chan-wook Park (Oldboy) riff on Alfred Hitchcock’s spidery 1943 classic Shadow of a Doubt, with some added bows to David Lynch and Brian De Palma. They call it Stoker and they make it their own, all right. It’s a macabre, icy, intriguingly quirky miss, for all its perversity, campy Southern Gothic trappings and show-offy imagery and sounds such as a spider crawling up a teenage girl’s leg and a metronome clacking through the house like a doomsday clock.
Popping up at the funeral of his brother (Dermot Mulroney), suave, mysterious Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode, a pale substitute for the original film’s Joseph Cotten) insinuates himself into the lives of his mopey, grief-stricken high school misfit niece (Mia Wasikowska) and boozy, hot-to-trot sister-in-law (Nicole Kidman).
Park doesn’t seem to trust the material so he mostly uses it as an excuse to exercise his wild boy flair for flamboyant visuals and elaborations. Not much sticks. The movie is twee and arch, as if the stars were the Addams Family posing for a Tim Burton-shot Vanity Fair spread. Too bad, though, because Kidman is certainly vivid; she’s obviously game for all the campy, sub-Tennessee Williams-esque grotesquerie required of her. Her sly, knowing vitality is helpful because Goode is pallid and Wasikowska’s sullen, inscrutable pout has started to wear awfully thin. Even with all the blood, studied weirdness and incest, it’s a relief that Park’s gorgeously shot, atmospheric English-language debut movie doesn’t linger. At 98 minutes, it feels overstuffed but undernourished.