The Little Stranger
Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Will Poulter, Charlotte Rampling, Liv Hill
Bait and Switch: a tactic used in movies when the trailer advertises one thing and the movie turns out to be something else. The Little Stranger is being sold as a sophisticated horror story surrounding a mysterious house (think The Others). Acclaimed director Lenny Abrahamson is back behind the camera for the first time since the Oscar-winning Room. Yet little of his delicate insight and imagination behind that film is found here. Instead, it harks back to his dull work on Frank, making me wonder if the Irish director simply had a fluke with Room. The Little Stranger is infuriatingly slow and offers almost nothing advertised in the trailer. Audiences will inevitably feel shortchanged thanks to the deceptive marketing.
Young Faraday coveted Hundreds Hall from the moment he laid eyes on it. As a boy he along with his family and the rest of the county got a peek inside the 18th-century estate, the largest home in Warwickshire, England’s countryside, and he was smitten. Now a grown man and a respected doctor, Faraday has returned to his humble beginnings and finds himself summoned to the grand estate which has taken a turn for the worse over the decades. The Ayers children live in and run the house, Roderick (Poulter) burned and deformed from his time in the war and Caroline (Wilson) who cares for the family’s matriarch (Rampling). Faraday finds himself again drawn to the house and will do anything to remain there.
The Little Stranger offers one of the most absurd explanations for the cause behind the mystery, leaving a very unsatisfied feeling.
I enjoy a slow-building, scary story, especially those that are set in earlier time periods. There will always be something unsettling and compelling to me about stories taking place in places that are centuries old. The Little Stranger teases the audience for what feels like an eternity, and we keep telling ourselves that there must be some mind-blowing climax around the corner. However, outside of a young girl getting bitten or a few characters meeting their doom, the script based on Sarah Waters (The Handmaiden) novel is lackluster at best. The Little Stranger offers one of the most absurd explanations for the cause behind the mystery, leaving a very unsatisfied feeling.
Gleeson’s cold and bitter performance isn’t anything new from the actor who also starred in Abrahamson’s Frank. Its relative newcomer Ruth Wilson (How to Talk to Girls at Parties) that offers the only favorable performance. Also, there is a huge casting flaw as actors Gleeson and Wilson are only one year apart in age, yet their characters are supposed to be somewhere between 8-10 years apart. The house certainly plays a huge part in the story, functioning almost like a character in the early parts of the script until its purpose fades for less interesting plot devices. The film shot severely dark, and I don’t mean thematically. The technical elements of the film don’t stand out and the few moments where something does happen, it’s only briefly shown on screen.
The Little Stranger is curious and fleetingly menacing but it completely fails to engage the audience.