After the head of the Stoker family dies, his teen-age daughter, India (Mia Wasikowska), and his chilly wife (Nicole Kidman) get a visit from his brother, the sort-of charming, sort-of creepy Charlie (Matthew Goode). Korean director Chan-wook Park's first English-language film doesn't have the outlandish brio of the best of his past work (like 2003's Oldboy), but he definitely puts his mark on this slow-burner of a psychological thriller that peels the already-cracked veneer from a dysfunctional family. It's handsomely filmed, with both amusing visual puns and some icky close-ups of bodily fluids.
The story is something of a riff on Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt. (The screenplay was written by Prison Break's Wentworth Miller.) India is both repulsed by and attracted to the globe-trotting and sophisticated Uncle Charlie, and his presence completes her journey from child to adult, with plenty of disturbing mileposts at sex and violence.
The film isn't for everyone — it's slow, melancholy and more a series of set pieces than a straightforward narrative. It also feels somewhat neutered compared to Park's more in-your-face films. But for the patient viewer, it's an intriguing 100 minutes, even if all its expertly rendered stray bits of malice and beauty never quite add up to a wholly satisfying work.