Stoker (18)

Directed by Chan-wook Park
Screening at FACT from 8th March 2013

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Distraught Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) is in a period of mourning after a car accident has left her dead husband's head a staved-in bloody mess. Her daughter India (Mia Wasikowska) has internalised the traumatic event to the extent that communication with the outside world is forced and minimalist.

Into the strained family household enters what increasingly drives the action on its exponentially psychotic path - the long lost, globetrotting uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode). His arrival is greeted with utter dismay by the old housekeeper and a visiting elderly aunt. Their concerns are well founded - both will have a long time to wait to be remembered again - in the interestingly downward scrolling credits.

India loved her father, spending long periods away with him on hunting trips and has finetuned her visual acuity and listening skills in the long hours of waiting for something to move. Now it is Charlie who moves malevolently across the screen making a play for his brother's wife whilst trying to maintain more than eye contact with India.

Having ascertained that Charlie's cupboard is not short off skeletons India herself becomes the target of some high school jocks, who fancy their chances as rumours are leaking about the new arrival's proclivities with her increasingly deranged mother. She can hold her own and after discovering the pair in flagrante delicto runs off to a liaison of her own at the local hop. She eggs on an amour who is rewarded by Charlie turning up and breaking his neck, the excitement of which bringing orgasmic transcendence for India.

The spark that is kindled between her and Charlie bursts into life at the piano and the hapless Evelyn is consigned to a life on soporifics, before she too becomes a problem that must be rationalised. The local police are investigating the increasing tally of disappearances but their enquiries are kept at bay. India meanwhile has learnt the truth about Charlie and he imparts what really happened to her father and why it had to be done.

The ending is novel if not unexpected. This family has problems and something more than macho madness is passed on in the genes. There are allusions to Hitchcock, King and Tarantino and the Korean director's first attempt at a film in English is characteristically brutal enough, justifying the 18 certificate. Perhaps most of all, the inspired sounds of Philip Glass piano music catches the manic mood most in this disturbing addition to a genre well used to titillating the nervous system. The leads carry it of with aplomb.

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