Think your family is dysfunctional? Meet the Stokers. These cruel characters may not be related to Dracula author Bram Stoker, but they evoke his famous Count in their own vampiric ways. Mia Wasikowska plays sensitive, neurotic India Stoker, whose beloved dad dies in an auto accident on her 18th birthday. Her father's long-lost brother, Charlie (Matthew Goode), unexpectedly arrives for the funeral and stays on at the Stoker estate. India is initially perturbed by the growing sexual tension between Charlie and her mother, Evie (Nicole Kidman), but then finds herself strangely drawn to this mysterious charmer. Hey, we're seduced as well! Read more Stoker teasers to see why:
1. Hints of Hitchcock: Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook is making his English-language debut after garnering international acclaim for such films as Thirst, Lady Vengeance, and Oldboy. Park's interest in directing began with Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece Vertigo, and Stoker nods unmistakably to the Master of the Suspense. Savvy cinephiles will catch the allusion to Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt, which also features a psycho Uncle Charlie. Goode's portrayal is even reminiscent of handsome, dapper villains from Hitchcock thrillers, including Farley Granger in Rope and Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train.
2. A Creeptastic Cast: Director Park has assembled some top-tier actors, led by Nicole Kidman, who often appears in ambitious projects with auteur directors—from Gus Van Sant (To Die For) to John Cameron Mitchell (Rabbit Hole). Dermot Mulroney makes a brief appearance in flashback as the Stoker patriarch, while Mia Wasikowska—whom audiences will recognize from her titular turns in Alice in Wonderland and Jane Eyre—is pitch-black-perfect as the beautiful and haunted India.
3. Metaphor Euphoria: Sigmund Freud would be so proud. As with many of Park's works, Stoker mixes dreamy images and disturbing violence with visual metaphors, such as flowers and shoes to symbolize India's budding womanhood and sexuality. Does that spider crawling up her leg also represent awakening desire—or perhaps the arrival of evil or her natural killer instinct? Or something else? Discuss!
4. Not Exactly "Chopsticks": In one of Stoker's most powerful scenes, Charlie joins India at the piano and—despite his claims of no musical ability—plays a complex and hypnotic duet with her. No words. Just music. And lust. Set to a catchy beat! By the end of the piece, it's clear where their relationship is headed, and it ain't to Carnegie Hall. Renowned composer Philip Glass wrote the stirring duet for the film, and Wasikowska took a three-month crash course to credibly play the piano onscreen.
5. Oh, Uncle Charlie, There's No Place Like Home: The Stokers' mansion serves as another character in the film and helps to emphasize the family's isolation and alienation. The filmmakers originally envisioned a large, stone Gothic castle but couldn't find one in Nashville, Tenn., where they shot. Instead, they selected a 1920s estate with rolling hills and extensive gardens and spent six weeks giving the traditional home an Extreme Stoker Makeover, with top-to-bottom renovations that included new colors, styles, and design details.