A few years after the Second World War, country doctor Dr. Faraday (Domhall Gleeson) visits a patient at the once glamorous manor, Hundreds Hall. This visit will forever alter his coarse and all of those who inhabit this mysterious house. Using a haunted house to propel the horror within your story is incredibly popular and one that audiences never seem to tire of. The setting in a horror film is extremely important and a haunted house is a near perfect setting, I was really looking forward to this film. Unfortunately The Little Stranger fails to deliver.
As months pass by, Dr. Faraday records his visits to Hundreds Hall in a series of detailed journal entries. It is during his writing that we learn that his mother was once a maid at the hall and he had visited before as a young boy. Ever since he was young he has felt a strong connection to it although he could never explain why. The Ayres family has lived there for hundreds of years and while its physical presence has started to decline the occupants are also starting to diminish. Shortly after its opening the screenplay written by Lucinda Coxon, strays from the mystery within the hall. What first promises to be a haunted house story fails to stick with the theme. The setup is all there, the maid claims she hears noises within the walls, a horrible accident takes place during a dinner party and not to mention the mystery surrounding the death of the Ayres’ oldest daughter when she was just a young girl. All of this leads some members of the household to question whether or not the hall is indeed haunted.
Instead of following through this film becomes caught up in other parts of the story that are far less interesting. The mystery surrounding the hall shifts to the mystery surrounding Dr. Faraday’s interest in the family. Then it shifts again to the relationship between him and Caroline Ayres (Ruth Wilson). These parts of the story feel like an odd collection of events that are pieced together when all I wanted was for them to go back to Hundreds Hall. Part of what makes a good horror film is the angst and tension you feel when watching it. It’s really important to maintain that tension within the audience so the audience remains engaged. Whenever the characters weren’t in the house this film resembled more of a slow drama than one classified as a horror film. When there were glimpses of horror, they were great! However these moments were so brief and inconsistent which was really disappointing.
Even though my expectations got the better of me, there were some elements in this film that made it somewhat enjoyable. Domhall Gleeson gives a good performance but not one that stands out. He’s been one of my favorite actors for awhile now and it wasn’t noteworthy but it is by no means a bad performance. Ruth Wilson gave the strongest performance and one that was really interesting. Her presence was intriguing, the pressure of being trapped within the walls of the hall was evident in the way she carried herself.
As The Little Stranger came to an end it continued to disappoint. It didn’t pay off; the grand reveal was a let down. This film had a strong premise but one that the creators couldn’t successfully deliver. This film isn’t a bad one per say and it wasn’t even a bad experience but the failure to present the strongest element of this story is extremely unfortunate.
3 out of 5 stars
Director: Lenny Abrahamson Writer: Lucinda Coxon, Sarah Waters (novel) Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Charlotte Rampling, Will Poulter Release Date: August 31st Rated: R Runtime: 1 hour and 51 minutes Image Credit: Imdb