Stoker opens with a birthday. India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) is eighteen. Stoker opens with a death. India's father Richard (Dermot Mulroney) is dead. When India and her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) go to the funeral, they meet an unfamiliar relative, Richard's brother Charlie (Matthew Goode). Charlie seems rather remarkable with his charm, good looks, and talents impressing the remaining Stoker family. But there is a dark side that soon comes out. However, India has a dark side of her own that only furthers her infatuation with her uncle.
Stoker is purely Hitchcockian fare. Not quite horror, not quite action, not quite drama, this is suspense in its purest form. There is certainly a violent edge to this film, but the focus of the film is to unsettle. You never can find a comfortable position in your seat as with each scene you grow more and more unsure of what might happen. The distress reaches a fever pitch in a scene where India and Charlie play a piano duet. Their performance is impeccable, and the piece is gorgeous, and yet as it plays out, the tension rises to an unbearable degree. This extreme tension is held throughout the rest of the film as we learn more of Charlie's past and present.
The performances in the film fit quite well within the suspense genre; they are tense, heightened, and alien. Mia Wasikowska shines in particular, capturing adolescent awkwardness and angst wonderfully and adding a touch of sociopathy. Unfortunately, the climax is a tad lacking, and what should have been the visceral final shot's power is diminished by its uncanny similarity to an iconic shot in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained.