I don’t mind gothic horror. I do mind when a movie meanders all about the place with no idea what kind of film it wants to be and limps along the way to a conclusion that offers no resolution. I really liked Lenny Abrahamson’s Room and was excited what the follow up would be. If you can’t already guess, I was pretty disappointed.
Based on the novel by Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger concerns Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson, who was Bill in the Harry Potter films and has also appeared in Peter Rabbit and as General Hux in the new Star Wars movies). As a child, would visit Hundreds Hall, but now the house has fallen into ruin under the care of Roderick Ayres (Will Poulter, We’re the Millers), a scarred Royal Air Force vet, and his sister Caroline (Ruth Wilson, who was in another slow-moving supernatural film in 2016, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House).
Faraday’s mother had once been a maid to the Ayres and his memories of the house have been with him ever since. But now, beyond the house going to pieces, strange noises can be heard in every room. And the 19th-century tube communication device and bell system that connects the house have both been wreaking havoc with everyone’s nerves.
Once the elderly Mrs. Ayers (Charlotte Rampling!) has an encounter with something in the house — leading to her slashing her wrists — and Roderick attempts to set it all on fire, only the maid and Caroline are left in the house. Is there supernatural afoot? Or is the real danger Faraday’s drive to escape his caste and join the upper crust (nevermind that post World War 2, the Labor Party changed their position in the food chain)?
I knew from the beginning of this film that it would be a long and slow meandering story. I just didn’t know how slow and meandering it would get. It’s yet another non-ending ending having film, one where people will say things to me like, “It just makes more sense if you read the book and know the class struggle and the way England was changing.” Of course, it does. But that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it.