November 26, 2018  (Web Review)

The Little Stranger

Universal, 112 min., R, DVD: $24.98, Blu-ray: $29.98, Nov. 27

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

Set in 1948 in rural Warwickshire, England, The Little Stranger finds staid Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) being summoned to tend a servant at Hundreds Hall. As he approaches, memories flood his mind, particularly a hot summer day in 1919 when he was eight years old and working-class villagers were invited to a fair on the estate grounds. Since his mother once worked there as a housemaid, young Faraday (Oliver Zetterstrom) was allowed to venture inside, wandering the eerie, austere halls in awe, even filching a souvenir. Hundreds Hall has been the ancestral home of the aristocratic Ayres family for more than two centuries, but the once-magnificent mansion has crumbled into decay. And its current inhabitants are haunted by some mysterious force. Here reside genteel Mrs. Angela Ayres (Charlotte Rampling) and her two adult children: disfigured Roderick (Will Poulter), who suffers from physical and psychological WWII wounds, and Caroline (Ruth Wilson), an enigmatic spinster who catches shy, lonely Dr. Faraday’s eye. Terrible things start to happen: a visiting child is mauled by the family dog, Roderick sets his library on fire, and Mrs. Ayres sees the ghost of her eldest daughter who died in childhood. “People like the Ayres’ will run you bloody ragged if you let them,” a colleague warns Faraday, who makes day-and-night house calls, perhaps propelled by repressed obsession. Adapted from Sarah Walters’s 2009 neo-Gothic novel, filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson’s The Little Stranger is a tale told with agonizingly methodical deliberateness, using Hundreds Hall as a bizarre metaphor for disintegrating sanity. Ultimately, however, it is also a tediously understated supernatural tease. Optional. (S. Granger)