Nothing about this film makes any sense. It’s trying to be a Hitchcockian version of Lolita, with some disgracefully gratuitous and out of place nods to that director so we get the point. India Stoker’s (Mia Wasikowska) father has just died under mysterious circumstances, enter the hitherto unmentioned uncle (Matthew Goode) who comes to stay with her and her mother (Nicole Kidman). We can tell instantly exactly what will unfold, and as it does there is little to no reaction from Stoker as events occur that would have anyone in their right minds dialling for the emergency services. What supposedly stops her, the charismatic allure of her uncle (the expected Dracula reference), doesn’t work as it hasn’t been justified at all by that point and Matthew Goode’s character is about as charismatic as a gangrenous ulcer. ‘Watchmen’ (09) is to date his only role that springs to mind as memorable, and here he manages to be both creepily omnipresent, and yet still entirely wooden.
Plot holes continue to open their cavernous mouths as the film progresses, and sadly I can’t go into any of them without giving things away, but look out for the freezer that is a country mile away from any sensible location, what’s in the freezer and the distinct lack of reaction to it, and, well, pretty much everything in the second half of the movie. It’s a massive disappointment as it is the first English language film from the South Korean director of ‘Oldboy’ (03), Park Chan-wook, who frenetically cuts out of sequence shots together and uses various camera tricks to try and keep us interested, but ultimately it comes as no surprise that he’s working with a debut script – one from ‘Prison Break’ actor Wentworth Miller, no doubt deciding to exorcise his sexual frustrations by putting them down on paper. Though Stoker is older (she has just turned eighteen) than the eponymous character in Nabokov’s classic novel, there are many parallels, with the onset of her sexual awakening being central to the story, partly represented by a CGI spider that can be seen crawling up her leg at one point. There was a study done years ago that found there was a huge rise in the fear of spiders in young girls at the onset of puberty. The theory to explain this was that there was a subconscious psychological match between the strange and perhaps disconcerting bodily change of hair appearing where once there had been none before, and the hair of the spider (this study was presumably not undertaken in Britain). Now, whether or not that conclusion was far fetched, I wonder if Mr Miller did not also come across it whilst writing his script.
It gets a rating of seven purely for the good performances of Kidman, Jacki Weaver in support, and, particularly, Wasikowska. As a sad afternote, the film was produced by Scott Free Films, and as such is the final film to have been produced by the veteran, and much loved, director Tony Scott, who took his own life by jumping off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles during the film’s production.