The film is a gothic horror centred around India, (Mia Wasikowska) an introverted teenager left with her brittle and beautiful mother Evie (Nicole Kidman) after the death of her father. When her mysterious Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) turns up to the funeral and begins to charm Evie, India retreats from this charming stranger, suspicious, resentful and watchful. The film veers in genre from wicked stepfather fairytale to crime-spree love affair and finally to somewhere completely different. And it’s not about vampires, despite the leading title. However, on second thought, it is rather heavy on talk of blood.
Since this is a director whose most famous film contains a disturbing twist based on familial relationships – a twist that will temporarily shatter anyone who has ever been a father, daughter, brother or sister – it seems reasonable to explore his portrayal of the Stoker family. To begin with, there is the strained mother-daughter relationship between Evie and India.
Ginger Snaps (2000) tells the story of two teenage sisters whose close relationship is threatened when the elder of the two simultaneously hits puberty and becomes a werewolf. In a scene in which Ginger recounts her realisation of her blood lust, she says, ‘I get this ache... and I thought it was for sex, but it's to tear everything to fucking pieces.’ By the end of Ginger Snaps, the pre-adolescent Ginger has disappeared, along with her sisterly relationship. All that’s left is an autonomous being, a monster.
This idea that once grown we are on our own must leave Park thinking about what it is we can instill in our children before it is too late. Park has made a career of hauntingly beautiful but violent films dealing in dark themes of revenge, incest and the origins of evil. In 2006 he made a romantic comedy, I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Ok, mainly so his daughter would be able to watch one of his films. Stoker contains a reference to his daughter, explained by Park in an interview for The Guardian. 'There's this element I brought into the film, this talk of wine', says Park of a loaded dinner-table scene:
In the film, India’s father literally arms her before he dies, teaching her to hunt. How well or badly this skill will mix with her nature, only time will tell. Park has said he is interested in the origins of evil, and Stoker asks this question without ever really answering it.
Stoker (Park Chan-Wook, 2013)