This British-American psychodrama is a dark thriller that has nothing to do with the author of Dracula, Bram Stoker, but a lot to do with Shadow of a Doubt, the 1943 psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
The movie shares with them both an approaching sense of dread, and exposure to violence and death.
When Richard (Dermot Mulroney), the father of India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska), dies in an apparent car accident, Indie is left with an emotionally unstable mother, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), who has always resented her husband’s affection for his daughter. Richard’s brother, Charlie (Matthew Goode), is at the funeral and moves in with Evelyn and Indie because “it is important” to him. Evelyn is delighted and Indie is resentful.
Evelyn responds warmly to Charlie’s affection, but Indie rebuffs her uncle’s initial attempts to get close to her. The movie focuses on the disturbances of all three, mother, daughter and her uncle – who, as Indie says “don’t need to be friends, we’re family”.
Indie’s great aunt, Gwendolyn (Jackie Weaver) arrives for an unexpected visit and threatens to reveal Charlie’s past. Shortly afterwards, she is strangled. Richard was an inmate in a psychiatric institution, and the genes of his family begin to show. When Indie shares a violent incident with Charlie, she becomes excited sexually by thoughts of violence, and Charlie and Indie become intimate, infuriating Evelyn.
Charlie later assaults Evelyn and calls Indie to watch his attack - and Indie comes to Evelyn’s aid. The end of the movie leaves no doubt that there is something terribly wrong in the genes of this particular family. This is a genuinely creepy film that fits well and truly into the horror genre. It builds up a solid dose of dread, is full of dark characters with mysterious pasts, and unfortunately sexualises its violence. Aggression is linked very explicitly with sexual scenes, and the result of this combination is explosive and a warning sign to all.
At one level, the film is a Gothic tale about an adolescent coming-of-age “waiting to be rescued”, but at a deeper level it is about the sexual repression of a girl dominated by her mother, the sexual frustrations of the mother, and the deviant sexuality of a homicidal uncle. The film shares with Hitchcock’s film a character by the name of Uncle Charlie, and descends more intentionally than Hitchcock into the twisted realm of nightmare material.
Technically, it is an impressively made film in the horror genre, but leaves you uncertain about how you are going to process its well-staged ghoulish moments - Peter Sheehan, ACOFB
Starring Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Dermot Mulroney, and Jacki Weaver. Directed by Park Chan-wook. Rated MA15+. Restricted (Strong violence, sexual references and sexualised violence). 99 min.