The Little Stranger movie poster
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The Little Stranger
The Little Stranger movie poster

The Little Stranger Movie Review

If the dude really wants the large but crumbling mansion, maybe you should just give it to him. Domhnall Gleesson stars in the slightly creepy but always alluring The Little Stranger, a gothic horror story from the director of Room.

A slow burn where little happens, at least on the surface, stop reading this review and don’t bother with The Little Stranger if you enjoy your horror movies with a full palate of jump-scares and things that go bump in the night.

This movie isn’t for you.

And normally, a horror movie that really isn’t scary at all and that takes a long, long time to get to the point wouldn’t appeal to me either. I would have stopped reading this review right along with you, although then again I have standards so I probably wouldn’t read any of my own reviews in the first place.

Despites its efforts to turn off most discerning audiences, The Little Stranger works nonetheless thanks to patiently deliberate direction by Lenny Abrahamson, terrific performances by the cast, and atmospheric sets that seem to live and breathe on their own. Gleeson’s slow transformation over the course of the film is both fascinating and impressive, one that can only truly be appreciated long after the end credits roll. And Ruth Wilson, as Gleeson’s possible paramour, matches him step for step with a fiercely understated performance.

Cast aside, Abrahamson keeps you interested in curious fashion, the film itself a mystery that pulls you along, its end game unclear. At nearly two hours long, the movie would have benefited for a shorter runtime—then again, you can tell Abrahamson purposefully stretched the story to maintain a deliberate pace throughout.

The big reveal is what makes The Little Stranger what it is. Ghost stories set in old, angry mansions where a child died long ago are a dime a dozen, but Abrahamson takes things in a different direction, even if you have to be paying attention to pick up on the subtleties. The reveal (which one can argue is up for debate) comes too early, though—had Abrahamson held it for closer to the end, it may have been more shocking. As is, it plays like a plot point that helps clarify the events that follow, but by treating it as such it makes the final act almost predictable, even expected.

The Little Stranger won’t appeal to everyone, and even still its slow pace is almost a chore, but there is something undeniably alluring about this haunted mansion tale that isn’t what it seems.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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