STOKER is creepy. The images are put together in such a way as to make it seem that the full picture is perpetually out of reach. There is always something out of frame, or out of order, or seen only in outline, or out of focus. The truth is out there, but how do we get there from here? Even the people are not quite whole, their affectless delivery turning what at first seems like an arch conceit into a ghostly absence. Time is not coherent in an ordinary sense either; it is hard to tell what is in flashback, what in flashforward, and what in memory, fantasy, or dream state.

The territory is familiar enough, a father deceased, replaced in the affections of the mother by the uncle, the daughter-niece resentful and seeking the truth of what happened. Mia Wasikowska’s gothic mien and enigmatic disposition make of her both a female Hamlet and an incipient bad seed, but how does it seem that she, somehow, is the guilty one in this rotten Denmark of a – is it New England, or the Midwest, or the West, or the South?

The credits tell us where it was shot, if we stay to read them all the way through, but really this is just the unsettling, decadent, incestuous Americana of the nightmares we have dreamed from Hawthorne, to Poe, to Dickinson, to Faulkner, captured, somehow, by the Korean director Park Chan-Wook and a cast that is Australian (Nicole Kidman and Wasikowski) and British (Matthew William Goode). Someone did something terrible, or will, or is planning to, or wants to, or all of the above, and the secrets are being kept, and will out, or so we expect no matter how difficult it is to get our bearings in this dread, dread film.

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