Nicole Kidman plays the mum and Matthew Goode the uncle with a secret in Stoker.
STOKER (Park Chan-wook). 98 minutes. Opens Friday (March 1). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NN
As Hitchcock riffs go, Stoker deserves points for being a deep cut.
Rather than Psycho, Rear Window or Vertigo, the usual go-to pictures for stylistic or thematic pilfering, screenwriter Wentworth Miller (the star of Prison Break) mines the master's 1943 Shadow Of A Doubt for its coming-of-age metaphor.
Small-town teen India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) with really good hearing becomes convinced her kindly Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) is hiding some rather homicidal secrets in his travelling bag.
But where Shadow was a case study in ambiguity and the power of suggestion, Stoker is much more direct. Making his English-language debut, Park Chan-wook - the Korean visual fetishist of Oldboy and Thirst - goes for lurid sensuality, his camera luxuriating in the faces of his cast. (Speaking of which, it's nice to see Nicole Kidman - who plays India's newly widowed mother - moving hers again.)
Though the close-ups are lovely, they tend to slow the film, which rolls out its plot at a snail's pace. As Goode and Wasikowska play out their elegant ballet of suspicion and mistrust, you have plenty of time to puzzle over details like "In which decade is this taking place?" and "How old is India supposed to be?" and "Why give Jacki Weaver and Judith Godrèche such insubstantial roles when they're Jacki Weaver and Judith Godrèche?"
In fairness, Stoker answers the first two questions. Eventually.