Some of the best horror movies these days come from overseas, because they don’t rely on jump-scares or idiotic characters for box office dough. Examples include “The Babadook” and “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night;” and both of them are more sentimental and patient than campy.
And now, we have an English Indie called “The Little Stranger,” based on Sarah Waters’ gothic novel, and directed by Lenny Abrahamson (“Room,” “Frank”). It lags at times, but it has fears and fine acting. It’s more dramatic than scary.
Set in 1948, Domhnall Gleason stars as the young Dr. Faraday, who examines patients at an old mansion-the same place his mother worked at. The place is falling apart and losing its magic, and its residents are the Ayres family, consisting on the mother (Charlotte Rampling), the beautiful daughter Caroline (Ruth Wilson), the disfigured solider son Roderick (Will Poulter), and the house maid Betty (Liv Hill). Apparently, the Ayres family had another daughter named Susan, who died at such a young age.
Roderick knows something is in the house, and it haunts him. He tells Dr. Faraday, and both he and Caroline believe it’s just PTSD, but strange things start occurring. Examples include a little girl getting attacked during a party, knockings, and markings in the walls that say: “Suki.”
“The Little Stranger” does a swell job showing us the relationship between Dr. Faraday and Caroline. He admires the girl, and even after a failed love scene in a car, he proposes to her. This side of the movie gives off a shy and gentle tone, and Gleeson and Wilson both have chemistry.
And I also liked the small roles from Poulter and Rampling. They have moments that amaze us, and their acting is sublime.
But it’s Gleeson who deserves the most credit. He’s wonderful in the ways he studies the other characters, and adapts to the situations that pop up. Other than last February’s “Peter Rabbit,” he really is a fine young Irish actor.
The score (composed by Stephen Rennicks) is chilling, the art direction makes things look interesting, and costumes and sets represent the time period and tone. Again, being an English horror film, it offers no jump-scares; it offers a steady chance of chills.
The movie is slow at times, but it takes it’s time to introduce us to the house and the characters, and continues with some fears and patience. I’m not sure if most people would check this out, because of the less ads it has and being the end of August is always dry; but for those of you who hate the horror cliches, you might find this place interesting.
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