Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska in "Stoker."

Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska in "Stoker." Credit: Handout

In Alfred Hitchcock's classic "Shadow of a Doubt," Joseph Cotten's homicidal Uncle Charlie was a human malignancy, made more so by the pure America that surrounded him.

The people of Santa Rosa were so goofily innocent -- including his niece, also named Charlie (Teresa Wright) -- that the uncle's mere presence gave "Shadow" that familiar Hitchcockian sense of virtue having a knife to its throat. And Park Chan-wook's "Stoker"? Everybody's so weird, you expect maniacs and, a la Park, usually get them.

You also expect style, and get that, too. The Korean cult director of the terrific "Oldboy," "Lady Vengeance" and "Thirst" is hardly known for restraint, but the schematic of "Stoker" (aka the too-knowing script by Wentworth Miller) thwarts him technically. India (the always watchable Mia Wasikowska) is a moody loner who has lost her father just before her 18th birthday, at which point she's introduced to her heretofore unknown Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), whom she can't figure out.

Her mother (Nicole Kidman), nursing a set of problems, is no help.

While Park exploits an angle of the "Shadow" story that Hitchcock couldn't -- India's crush on Charlie blinds her to his true nature -- the title, with its evocation of Bram Stoker, also suggests an agenda that the screenplay doesn't at all: that Charlie is a Dracula figure and India his prey.

But even though Park creates and sustains a mood, and shows what an athlete he is with the camera, the actors are struggling valiantly to give some emotional texture to a story that, ultimately, defeats itself.

PLOT When her father dies, a young woman's strange uncle suddenly appears, rocking her world.

RATING R (disturbing violent and sexual content)

CAST Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman


BOTTOM LINE Heavy-handed Hitchcock is no Hitchcock at all.

Top Stories

Newsday LogoYour Island. Your Community. Your News.Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months