In a dreamy bit of voiceover narration at the start, India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) tells us, “We are not responsible for what we have come to be.” Director Chan-wook Park rewinds things back to the morning of India’s 18th birthday, not quite the beginning we might have anticipated, but we soon come to realize it is the moment when the struck match first sparked for this young woman. She receives news that her beloved father (Dermot Mulroney) has died in a car accident and before long her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) introduces her to Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), but who is the mysterious and otherworldly uncle? Park teases us with the creeping movement of a spider approaching India’s leg, the sound and vision of India rolling the shell off a cracked egg, boxes of shoes (the annual gift she received on her birthday, the same style seen year by year as the sizes changed), ratcheting up a heightened state of tension.
We are on the verge of blazing hellfire, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Those of us who have watched Wasikowska (In Treatment and The Kids Are All Right) and Goode (The Lookout and Watchmen) have seen such flickering flames before. And we know that tingling we feel is the rising heat of a pair of performers, in the care of a sinister visionary, lighting our sensibilities on fire. Now open at Esquire Theatre. (R) Grade: A