The film maintains a delicate balance between erotically charged Southern Gothic and buttoned-up chamber piece distance. In it, Mia Wasikowska plays India Stoker, a teenage girl mourning the tragic death of her father (Dermot Mulroney). At the funeral and subsequent wake, India and her mother Evie (Nicole Kidman) encounter India’s hitherto unknown Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who charms his way into the household and promptly unpacks his bags. India is both intrigued and repulsed by his presence and by his shenanigans with her otherworldly, remote mother.
They’re certainly an odd bunch. During the opening sequences, one half suspects they’re a vampire coven. The truth is more earthy and more monstrous.
“At first, I was worried because I had made Thirst,” says Park. “I wanted to jettison some of those scenes. But then I started to play with the tropes of the vampire movie and work that expectation into the script. At times you can think that Uncle Charlie is a manifestation imagined by a young girl. Or a vampire.”
Stoker is not an obvious choice for Director Park, who has previously turned down high-profile English language projects, including the incoming Evil Dead remake and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The screenplay, written by English actor and Prison Break star Wentworth Miller, was voted to the 2010 Black List of the 10 best unproduced screenplays making the rounds in Hollywood. In recent years the same chart has alerted studio executives to the existence of Juno, Argo, Slumdog Millionaire, The Kings Speech and The Descendants.
“It was a very good script,” says Park, who originated all of his previous films. “And a lot of the things people think I wrote into it were already there. I’ve made films before that are adaptations of novels or comic books. The process wasn’t much different.”
What did he change in his rewrite I wonder?
“The beginning, the end. The hunting. The motif of the predator. Uncle Charlie’s weapon of choice. And the idea of India as a baby bird breaking out of her eggshell.”
He laughs: “Incarceration in an eggshell informs every aspect of the film, from the dialogue to the production design.”
Stoker plays out in striking images and strange balletic sequences not unlike those found in Hitchcock films. Park, who decided to become a film-maker after seeing Vertigo at university, says he “can’t help it” but that many of Hitchcockian overtones – Uncle Charlie is named for Joseph Cotton’s character in Shadow of a Doubt – can be traced back to Wentworth Miller.
“I didn’t add anything Hitchcockian in the process of writing and directing,” says Park. “It was already Hitchcockian. And that was a very conscious decision from the writer.”