Sarah Waters’ gothic ghost story comes alive in THE LITTLE STRANGER, now playing at AMC. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson (ROOM), the film toes the line between psychological thriller and horror. (Only a couple of scenes are particularly disturbing.)
The cinematography and score create a melancholy mood from the start, as Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) is called to Hundreds Hall to examine young maid Betty. She’s not sick, but unsettled, sensing a supernatural presence in the house. Soon, she’s not the only one who feels it.
Hundreds has been home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries. But it is now in decline, and its inhabitants — mother, son and daughter — are haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life.
Son Roderick (Will Poulter), who’s home healing his scars from World War II, begins to experience strange phenomena shortly after Betty. Faraday suspects he’s in shell shock, and after an unexplained fire nearly burns down his room with him inside, the family agrees to send Roderick to in-patient psychiatric care.
Poised Mrs. Ayres (Charlotte Rampling) starts to unravel next, certain the ghost of her late daughter, Suki, is communicating with her by scratching the walls, ringing service bells and locking her in an empty room. Daughter Caroline (Ruth Wilson), the caretaker with a self-assured spirit, and Faraday try to pull Mrs. Ayres out of her delusion, but they’re too late. Whatever, or whoever, “it” is, is hell-bent on destroying this family. Hear more from the cast:
Alongside the suspense, Abrahamson weaves a period drama about class, with a romance element that seems to bloom from ulterior motives on both sides.
We learn Faraday is the son of a maid, who coincidentally worked for Hundreds years ago, and he’s actually been in the house before. When he visited as a child, he was entranced with the aristocracy, breaking off an acorn from an ornate mirror as a souvenir.
Though Faraday climbed the social ladder, he failed to come to terms with his humble beginnings, still feeling like a “common village boy.” Perhaps his desperation to belong is his motivation to marry Caroline and convince her to keep the estate, despite its apparent hauntings — or, perhaps there’s something more sinister behind the doctor’s stiff upper lip.
THE LITTLE STRANGER will keep you guessing until the end. Get your tickets at AMC today.