[Review] The Little Stranger (2018)
The Little Stranger – During the long, hot summer of 1948, Dr. Faraday travels to attend to a patient at Hundreds Hall, home to the Ayers family for more than two centuries. After arriving at the home he finds strange things starting to occur. The Hall is now in decline and its inhabitants, mother, son, and daughter, are haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life. When Faraday he takes on his new patient, he has no idea how closely, and how disturbingly, the family’s story is about to become entwined with his own. Based on the book by bestselling author Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger stars Domhnall Gleeson and is directed by Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson.
From very early in this movie, just as ‘Hereditary’ did, The Little Stranger also gives the viewer that same dreadful “I have a bad feeling” sensation, which to me, is always a great sign that the movie could be pretty damn good. We find Domhnall Gleeson as a British doctor who comes to the old estate, Hundreds Hall, owned by a very wealthy aristocratic family that he came to know as a child. As a young boy in 1919, Faraday was occasionally allowed to visit Hundreds Hall because of the fact that his mother worked there. As a small boy, he was always very conscious of his lowly status but was extremely infatuated by the mesmerizingly beautiful and enormous house and would often fantasize that he belonged with this family, not just a “little stranger” there. But everyone knows that fantasy can’t possibly be real. The upper-class status of this nature must be born into, never learned.
Faraday himself has managed to become a respected medical doctor largely through the selfless and extreme sacrifices of his parents. Faraday remarks that his mother worked so hard that it drove her to an early grave and, aside from successfully making him a doctor, the primary result of his parent’s huge sacrifices was to make him aware of his original origins to the point of being ashamed of his own parents. Eventually, he is called out to check on the last remaining housekeeper at Hundreds Hall. For a couple of hundred years, it’s been the Ayres family home, a divine fixture among Britain’s elite. But now the Hall, the grounds and the family themselves are all little more than a sad and distant memory of their once great selves.
Sorrowfully, the Ayres family themselves now only consists of Charlotte Rampling, who is the matriarch that cannot seem to move past the death of her beloved young daughter Susan (Suki) many years ago. Charlotte’s surviving daughter Caroline, who seems to have let herself go, and thought to have given up her entire life to take care of her mother, and brother Roderick, the son and heir to the estate, who was grossly disfigured and mutilated during the war. All of which are in various stages of neglect and ill-repair.
While Caroline is still young and healthy enough to get away and create her own future, she’s just too tied up in the affairs of the family and seems depressed by all the doom and gloom surrounding the Great Hall, so her hopes and dreams quietly flicker out of sight. This is a strange family who mostly keeps to themselves, except for Faraday who seems mysteriously drawn to the family. Or is it the house?
Faraday, on the other hand, had his defining moment where as a child, he was allowed to visit the Hundreds Hall to attend the party of the Ayres family’s young daughter, Susan. It is then that he first notices the opulent nature of it all, a completely different world than the one this young boy knows and lives in. Even though he’s well aware that he’ll never belong, he deeply desires to become a part of this glorious new world. So who can blame him when at one point he is able to get into the house that’s been restricted to outside guests.
While in the kitchen, he gets a taste of the sweet life, literally, when he licks the cake batter from a spoon while his mother, who is a maid for the family, is shown talking with some of the other maids. While she’s distracted, he sneaks off to explore the house more. He ends up at a grand staircase that takes his breath away and all he can think about is how badly he wants nothing more than to become a part of this family and to live there. He craves this so badly that he ends up breaking off a stone acorn from the wall, unaware that little Susan is watching, smiling at his foolish antics.
The Little Stranger centers on the mysterious terror that befalls the Ayres, and horror fans looking for a lot of blood and gore will likely come away disappointed. The film’s R rating barely feels justified and is most connected to a pair of quick scenes showing the bloody aftermath of mishaps in the house. Even though The Little Stranger is a little stranger than most horror films, It’s more of a psychological thriller than horror.
The acting is really strong, all of the actors played their roles with complete brilliance. Willson really playing hers to perfection. I adored the gothic sets, which were filled with dark, thick atmosphere and many chills, beautifully cloaked in dread, complete with ominous music and a creepy old mansion. I have to also give much-deserved props to the sound design, another perfect element of the film.
The Little Stranger is half haunted house, half ghost story, part mystery, and part thriller, but yet, not fully any of these. The final twist at the end of the film is smart, giving it a literal, supernatural explanation for the metaphorical way in which Faraday’s childhood self has been sabotaging his adult life, all of his life. I also feel that it felt slightly rushed, even at the actual playtime it had and had this been made into a mini-series or limited series TV show, it would have been way more satisfying. Either way, it was a damn good movie. One the people will either get or not get, it’s really that simple. I highly recommend, go see this one!
Title: The Little Stranger
Release Date: September 21, 2018
Runtime: 1 hour, 51 minutes
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Drama
Studio: Universal Pictures
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Will Poulter
MPAA Rated: R
Directors: Lenny Abrahamson
Reviewed by: Grim Magazine
Our Rating: 4.0 /5
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