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The Little Stranger – Movie Review

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The Little Stranger – Movie Review

Rating: C- (Below Average)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

The slow burn horror film can get the right amount of tension by sucking the audience in through atmosphere and not knowing when something with pop out of the shadows. The Little Stranger, however, takes this to the extreme as director Lenny Abrahamson seems far more intent on showing the characters doing mundane tasks. It’s understandable what he’s trying to accomplish, but it doesn’t make for particularly riveting cinema. The Little Stranger isn’t necessary a badly made film on a technical level and the acting is mostly decent. It is just more likely to cause the occasional nap than any sort of excitement.

This is a film where almost everyone is required to act as stoic as possible as Abrahamson seeks to show the stiff upper lip side of British culture. Throughout the film, there are occasional flashbacks and other little pieces to add to the ghost story it’s trying to tell. However, much of the action involves Domnhall Gleason’s doctor just doing assorted activities. The Little Stranger wants to avoid the jump scares and fast cutting of a lot of modern horror films, which is admirable. However, it leads to a slowly paced experience and the end rarely feels like it’s in sight.

For an attempted ghost story, the ghouls don’t pop up much and this lessens the potential fright of the piece. There is potential to explore and develop the characters, but almost everyone is written to be as stereotypically British as possible. Abrahamson seems intent on showing the unemotional side of British wealth, right down to rigid dances and uneventful dinner parties. The few moments where a major event happens rarely seem to have a major impact on the plot. Gleason, Ruth Wilson and Charlotte Rampling do give solid performances and believably embody these characters. Liv Hill serves as the stand-out, turning in a great performance as the maid. It’s a shame the central figures are dull people not worth being invested in.

On the other side of the spectrum is Will Poulter as Wilson’s brother, who has been disfigured from his time in World War II. While Poulter is the only actor who portrays his character with a pulse, he’s far too over-the-top and the makeup does not do him any favours. For as slow paced as The Little Stranger is, it is a handsomely mounted production Abrahamson directs with a real eye for detail. Production designer Simon Elliott, costume designer Steven Noble and cinematographer Ole Bratt Birkeland deserve to be commended for their work on the film as they manage to take the audience back to post-war Britain.

The Little Stranger wants to be a stoic period piece first and a horror film second, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The problem is the pacing is far too slow to get one invested. The movie consists of scene after scene of characters wandering this large house and merely doing their day-to-day chores. Lenny Abrahamson seems to want to make the sort of slow burn horror film that is making a comeback in the current age. However, he takes far too long to really get the major events moving and doesn’t give the audience characters to care about. Even the ghosts don’t provide much in the way of terror or suspense.


Stefan Ellison

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