Oscar nominated director Lenny Abrahamson returns to the big screen with ‘The Little Stranger’, an adaptation of Sarah Waters 2009 novel of the same name. The film is a period drama with hints of horror littered throughout as local medical professional, Doctor Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) is called to a house which holds with it early childhood memories for him and a potentially more sinister secret for those who inhabit it today.
We know that Abrahamson can get the best from his casts, his last two films; ‘Room’ and ‘Frank’ are testament to this. Previous collaborator Domhnall Gleeson stars in the leading role for Abrahamson once more here and proves a fitting choice as he steers this feature in a very watchable direction. Similarly the remainder of his cast including Ruth Wilson, Charlotte Rampling and Will Poulter all deliver good performances offering possible misdirection at ever turn enhancing the mystery element of the narrative. The story here is well executed, it’s slow paced and methodical but it consistently feels like it’s building towards something bigger, however whilst it may feel like it’s building to something really worthwhile it ends up amounting to very little.
Whilst marketed mainly as a horror film, any scares that do feature very much take a back seat in the initial act. At first it feels refreshing as it appears remarkably free from cliches but ultimately this is more because for the first hour or so ‘The Little Stranger’ is almost entirely a romantic drama. There’s nothing wrong with this but it will leave some audiences feeling short changed providing what they were sold. When the picture eventually develops into the ghost story that it promised viewers thankfully there are some creepy moments. One scene in particular is especially effective, layering several themes of the film into one powerful sequence. However, apart from this one instance the film is low on any real payoffs in terms of its horror. In addition to this the film’s conclusion is underwhelming and somewhat baffling with the potential to leave audiences with a hunger for more instead of the satisfaction they deserve.
So whilst Abrahamson has provided audiences with exciting and interesting stories through his recent directorial efforts it’s a real shame that there seems to be nothing remarkable about ‘The Little Stranger’. This mis-marketed period drama won’t live up to the expectations of those seeking a ghoulish ghost story and even those not fussed on the horror element may feel a certain emptiness upon reaching the films climax. On a whole the film is produced and performed to a high standard, however on this occasion the writing can’t equal the other elements on show and won’t compliment the film in the way in which it looks like it’s going to do.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 6/10
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