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"We don't need to be friends. We're family."
India Stoker

A 2013 film from acclaimed director Park Chan-wook, and his first English language production, with a script by Wentworth Miller of Prison Break fame.

After 18-year-old India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) loses her beloved father Richard in a car crash, a mysterious man shows up at the funeral - her uncle, Charlie (Matthew Goode). While India is apprehensive of a family member she's never even heard of until now, and suspicious about his motives, her unstable mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) welcomes Charlie into their home. Witty and attractive, Charlie fills the hole Richard left behind - in more ways than one. Evelyn's infatuation with him grows, but India's manipulative, charming uncle seems to be more interested in India herself...

This can only end well.

Despite having a title that's rather similar to the surname of that guy who wrote Dracula, the film is not, in fact, about vampires.note  (Although Word Of God admits that the book was a big influence, as was Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt.)


This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • "You know, I've often wondered why it is we have children? And the conclusion I've come to is, we want someone to get it right this time. But not me. Personally speaking, I can't wait to watch life tear you apart." Evelyn, ladies and gents. Although, in Evelyn's defense, this statement was made after she caught India in what was probably an Almost Kiss with her uncle Charlie, whom Evelyn herself had been having an affair with.
    • Possibly Richard and Charlie's parents too, judging from the screenplay — though the circumstances make that a little more understandable.
  • Age-Inappropriate Dress: Downplayed with Charlie. He wears suits, polo shirts, slacks, and the like, but the colors and styles he chooses make him look more like a twentysomething fresh out of prep school, rather than a thirtysomething who's spent years travelling the world. Behind the scenes interviews confirm that this was deliberate, chosen to reflect how Charlie's spent the past couple decades in an asylum, undergoing most of his formative years there. Emotionally speaking, India's way more mature than he is.
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  • Asshole Victim: Whip Taylor, India's attempted rapist.
  • Ascetic Aesthetic: Oh yeah. While everything looks quite nice, there's this very ugly feel that everything isn't right.
  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: In a subdued sense, India's saddle shoes and neat dresses (never pants), which give her the look of having walked out of a bygone era. It's especially noticeable when she's with her classmates, all of whom dress in much more modern styles.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted; despite the stylized nature of the film and its violence, India is shown getting scraped up and blistered from playing in the woods and legitimately filthy and clammy after her part in disposing of Whip.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: India isn't as bad as Charlie but she still has a dark side.
  • Big "NO!": Evelyn, when she gets the call that her husband has been in an accident. Overlaps with Death Wail.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Even if there're only three of them, there's plenty of screwiness to go around. It goes back at least one generation, too.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: India manages to be this while still remaining technically polite, especially when interacting with her mother.
  • Buried Alive: The fate of Jonathan Stoker.
  • Chekhov's Gift: On her 18th birthday, India receives a key, which opens the drawer to her father's desk where all the letters sent by Charlie to her have been kept.
  • Chick Magnet: Charlie attracts Evelyn's attention almost instantly — at her husband's funeral, no less! — and several of India's female classmates Squee over him. Later, India develops an attraction to him, as well.
  • Comforting the Widow: Charlie and Evelyn - although, to be fair, Evelyn is rather emotionally distraught at this point. Turns out it's not Evelyn he's interested in...
  • Coming of Age Story: And in a very surreal and weird way as well.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: India rescues Evelyn, who is being strangled by Charlie, by shooting him in the back.
  • Convenient Slow Dance: "Summer Wine" is not a typical slow dance choice, but they seem plenty into each other regardless.
  • Cool Shades: Charlie wears a pair, adding to his mysterious, disconnected vibe. Turns out, he stole them from Richard. After she kills Charlie, India begins wearing them.
  • Creepy Basement: Where the ice cream is kept.
  • Creepy Blue Eyes: All three Stokers have rather piercing, disconcerting eyes. (Amusingly, all three actors had to wear contacts to get that effect.)
  • Creepy Child: India dresses in a manner to evoke this, despite being a (young) adult. By all evidence, Charlie was this.
  • Creepy Souvenir: Not a body part, closer to the dog tag variant of the trope - Charlie wears Richard's driving sunglasses, plucked off his face after beating him to death with a rock. After his death, India's happy to do the same again.
  • Creepy Uncle: Charlie; he's awfully concerned with his niece India being "of age". Too bad that's not the biggest thing wrong with him...
  • Daddy's Girl: India adored her father, and vice versa; he taught her how to hunt. Her mother, on the other hand...
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: India masturbates in the shower to the memory of one of Charlie's murders.
  • Date Rape Averted: Charlie swoops in to save the day. With a belt.
  • Deadpan Snarker: India is this at times. Evelyn is her favorite target.
  • Death of a Child: Charlie murdered his young brother Jonathan by burying him alive.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Evelyn warms up under Charlie's attentions.
  • Did Not Die That Way: Richard Stoker.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The piano duet between India and Charlie is very... eyebrow-raising, to say the least.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After enduring sexual harassment and bullying from her male peers for what is implied to be her entire education, India finally stabs her main tormentor with a pencil when he refuses to leave her alone. He wisely decides it's not worth it after that.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Subverted with Whip Taylor, who tries to rape India.
  • Duet Bonding: India and Charlie are both pianists, and at one point play together rather suggestively.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: India, in stark contrast to Evelyn's red hair, is one of these. So is Charlie.
  • Electra Complex: Implied. India was extremely close to her father, but has a... difficult relationship with her mom, to say the least. She later becomes infatuated with her uncle, her father's brother... whom she notes looks a lot like Daddy Dearest.
  • Elegant Classical Musician: Both India and her mother play piano incredibly well.
  • Emotionless Girl: India, to a tee. She's still a damn sight more emotional than in the screenplay — she's shocked at Charlie's murder of Jonathan and of her father, slapping him, and spares her mother at the end.
  • Enfant Terrible: In his childhood years, Charlie.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • India masturbates in the shower to the memory of one of her uncle's murders.
    • Charlie is about to have sex and starts making out with Evelyn.... only for him to start strangling and trying to kill her. He even calls India to watch!
  • Faux Affably Evil: Charlie is quite charismatic, and seems fairly charming at first. He's still an utter monster though.
  • Foot Focus: India receives a pair of saddle shoes for her birthday every year, with each pair being identical in every way to the previous year's pair apart from being of a larger size to fit her still-growing feet, symbolizing her growing maturity and loss of innocence. Upon turning eighteen, she is gifted a pair of high heels, and her putting them on her bare feet fresh out of saddle shoes is shown with numerous lingering close-ups.
    • Apart from during her father's funeral (at which she wears black hose as a formality), India never wears any socks, stockings, or other kind of hosiery with these shoes in any scene in the movie. This leads to numerous shots with her bare ankles in frame, and also emphasizes India's intimate connection with her shoes by having there be nothing at all in between the shoes and her bare feet.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Implied in two rather unsettling cases.
    • First, Charlie's murder of Whip, while a deeply satisfying Pay Evil unto Evil moment, becomes a lot creepier when you realize that Charlie's in love with India. It's very likely he killed Whip not just for attempting to rape his niece, but because he's jealous.
    • Second, Evelyn's "I can't wait to watch life tear you apart" speech comes after Evelyn realizes Charlie's interested in India. Given that Evelyn's immediate reaction isn't "I need to get my daughter away from this creep," but instead to deliver said speech, and that Evelyn had feelings for Charlie herself, it could be inferred that she's jealous of India.
  • Gory Discretion Shot:
    • When India shoots Charlie.
    • Downplayed at the end when India stabs the sheriff but the audience sees this from a distance.
  • Gossipy Hens: The housekeeper's assistants, and some of the guests at the funeral, which India's acute hearing makes her painfully aware of.
  • Hates Being Touched: India and Charlie.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Justified, India stabs the sheriff in the carotid artery
  • Improbably Cool Car: Charlie drives an immaculate classic Jaguar convertible. Justified as we find out that Richard bought it for him as part of his plan to move Charlie to a new life in New York City. He chose an old Jaguar as it was Charlie's favourite car as a child.
  • In Love with Your Carnage:
    • One possible interpretation of India's strong reaction to seeing Charlie kill her would-be rapist.
    • Charlie clearly enjoys watching India kick the crap out of Whip Taylor after he attempts to rape her.
  • Important Haircut: Evelyn cuts her glossy red hair to about jaw-length after seeing India and Charlie in what seemed like a compromising position.
  • Improvised Weapon: Multiple times — with pencils as mentioned in The Pen Is Mightier below, a shovel (in the screenplay at least), a belt, and a pair of garden shears.
  • Ironic Echo: "I just have to love you a little less now." Spoken from Richard to Charlie on the way from the asylum, and from Charlie to Richard as he kills him.
  • Jerk Jock: Those of India's male classmates who harass her the most, including Whip Taylor.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Charlie's murder of Whip.
  • Lady Drunk: Evelyn spends a fair amount of time in this state. As with Gertrude in Hamlet which the film is partly based on, it's not clear if this is something she's always had or if it's to cope with the loss of her husband, or something that was there beforehand but has got worse.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: India is fabulously rich, but doesn't have any friends. Downplayed, in that she doesn't appear to mind.
  • Love Triangle: Eventually, India/Charlie/Evelyn. It's a Type 4; Evelyn is attracted to Charlie, but Charlie only wants India, and eventually, she becomes attracted to him, as well.
  • Meaningful Background Event: As Whip Taylor struggles to take off his belt in order to rape India, we get a good long shot of Charlie coming up behind him soundlessly. Doing exactly the same thing, albeit for different purposes.
  • Meaningful Name: Stoker, as in, one who stokes.
  • Mugging the Monster: One of the bullies at India's school does his usual schtick of swinging his fist at India's head in a vain attempt to make her flinch but this time she's ready with a sharp pencil.
    • By proxy with Whip, who attempts to mug (or rather, rape) the niece of a monster, only to get strangled by said monster and then killed by his intended victim.
    • The poor, poor Sheriff...
  • Must Be Invited: Symbolically, when Charlie asks India's permission to stay with the family.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: India masturbates at the memory of her rapist being killed. She also begins to warm up to her uncle after discovering he's a murderer.
  • Not So Stoic: Charlie starts tearing up when Richard tells him that he won't be taking him home and to stay away from India.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The opening scene shows India standing in a field and smiling. The nearby presence of a police car is odd, but oh well, look at the pretty red flowers. Fast-forward to the end, and it turns out she's actually smiling at the sheriff whom she's stabbed. And those red flowers? That's blood.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Meddling and nosy as Aunt Gwendolyn is, she's still one of these, as is the housekeeper Mrs McGarrick. So, naturally, they're swiftly dealt with.
    • The sheriff becomes this towards the end of the movie, much in the same vein.
      • Between his emotionally unstable, alcoholic wife, psychopathic brother and budding sociopath daughter, the late Richard Stoker seems to be the only sane member of his immediate family.
  • Papa Wolf: Charlie is quick to defend his new family. By any means necessary.
  • Parent with New Paramour: A Type 2, save that India really warms up to her uncle.
  • Passive Aggressive Combat: India is extremely polite for the most part, but still manages to get some barbs in at her mother, and to a lesser extent, Charlie.
  • The Pen Is Mightier: When India's being harassed by a bully she gets a pencil ready - and when he tries to grab her, she stabs him in the wrist with it, hard enough that the nib comes away bloody.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: India becomes a killer just like good ol' Uncle Charlie at the end of the film, with her first victim being the Sheriff.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Matthew Goode views Charlie as being a child in the body of an adult, never truly growing up.
  • Psychotic Love Triangle: Oh, yes. Charlie's murdered five people, and is rather worryingly fixated on India. India herself is a Nightmare Fetishist, and has become a murderer herself by the end. Evelyn is the "normal one," but even she seems to have her issues, albeit in a less violent way.
  • The Quiet One: India rarely speaks unless spoken to. And sometimes, not even then.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: India has ghost-white skin and long, dark hair, and is extremely beautiful. She does not enjoy the attention she receives because of this.
  • The Reveal:
    • Charlie hasn't been travelling the world all these years, he's been institutionalized — for killing his younger brother. He also murdered his older brother (and India's father) after being released when he was told he couldn't see India.
    • India isn't crying in the shower after seeing Charlie strangle Whip Taylor, she's getting off on the recollection.
  • Renaissance Man: A slightly more realistic example in Uncle Charlie. He's handsome, charming, well-traveled, a top-notch chef, capable of dressing himself well and speaking French like a native, and a brilliant pianist. If rumor is to be believed, he is also an accomplished poet, a missionary, and a skilled tactician. Too bad his skills have more in common with Hannibal Lecter than your average Gentleman and a Scholar.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Birds as hunter and hunted, eggs, nests, blood and feet. There are numerous lingering closeups of Mia Wasikowska's bare feet, symbolising her innocence and India's identical pairs of saddle shoes (and symbolic donning of high heels) are symbolic of her growing maturity and loss of innocence.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Evelyn wears a blue one near the end of the film.
  • Scenery Porn: A lot of the sets we see are simply gorgeous, and add to the film's unsettling, gothic appeal.
  • Serial Escalation: The violence on screen gets progressively bloodier and more graphic.
  • Sense Freak: The way India describes her extraordinary perceptions has strong overtones of this, one of the many elements that are reminiscent of supernatural creatures, but it seems to cause her as much distress as private pleasure. It seems a bit like Sherlock Holmes's sensory perception in the Robert Downey. Jr films in that respect, in addition to the fact that both are unable to switch it off.
  • Shovel Strike: How Whip Taylor was killed in the original screenplay.
  • Shower of Angst: India takes one after helping to bury Whip, but it turns into something creepier than that.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: While he's willing to carry on with Evelyn for a bit, it gradually becomes clear that Charlie only has eyes for India. He mostly sees Evelyn as a means to an end, and is quick to try and murder her when she tries to get between him and India.
  • Sinister Shades: Charlie's sunglasses seem innocuous enough at first, but as we get to know him, they just make him look profoundly creepy. And then you find out where he got them...
  • Slasher Smile: Charlie's smiling face dallies with this trope — he's primarily a cool, collected Psychotic Smirker but after the exertion of having a breakdown and beating Richard to death with a rock his expression is a ghastly grin-like grimace as he regains his cool.
  • The Sociopath: Guess who? Hint: it's Charlie. India becomes one at the end as well.
  • Southern Gothic: The setting is a low-key, manicured yet undeniably decrepit Southern American atmosphere.
    • While filmed in Tennessee and having a Southern Gothic atmosphere, as seen by the address on the letters Charlie sent India, it's set in Connecticut, in the Northeast US. Another character also mentions Richard driving "two states away" (to the institution Charlie was in in Pennsylvania, as again seen by the letters.)
  • Stalker with a Crush: Charlie manages to stalk India while they live in the same house.
  • Stealth Pun: One set of posters at first seems like merely like a Design Student's Orgasm style grouping of natural imagery (roots, vines, branches, etc.) twining around images of the Stoker family and objects relevant to the plot, like Charlie's shovel or India's shoes. (There's a very striking promo video depicting the making of the poster set to Emily Wells' "Becomes The Colour".) But it's not just any collection of branches, leaves, and vines — it's literally a family tree.
  • Teens Are Monsters: India's classmates are a bunch of chuckling, sneering bullies who harass her with drawings of her naked and show off by pretending to punch her, stopping millimeters away from actually striking her, in an attempt to make her flinch. India, however, is different.
    • Whip Taylor seems as if he may be an exception to this, as he is friendly to India at first, but he soon turns out to be the most monstrous of them all, as he attempts to rape her.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailers give away an astonishing amount of the plot... while still having it not entirely make sense.
  • Uncanny Valley Girl: India is beautiful, wealthy, elegant, and polite, but there's something that's just off about her. The more the film goes on, the more we realize just how much.
  • Villainous Rescue: Uncle Charlie rescues India from Attempted Rape and kills her attacker.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: India and Evelyn.
  • Wham Shot: The stamp on the envelopes that reveal that Charlie was sending India letters... from an asylum.
  • Wicked Cultured: Charlie. He may be a murderous creep, but damned if he doesn't know his fine art, fine wine, and fine music.
  • Yandere: Charlie. He killed his brother Jonathan because he couldn't stand the attention he was getting over him and then there's his relationship with India.
  • You Remind Me of X: "You look like my father."
  • You Said You Couldn't Dance: India's suspicions are roused by the fact that when at the piano bench with her mother, Charlie pretends he can barely play Hot Cross Buns so Evelyn will have to teach him, but when he's with her... The exchange of dialogue doesn't take place, but it seems highly suggested by some interesting looks.