The Little Stranger: A slow burn pushing you over the edge

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The Little Stranger drops on Blu Ray this Tuesday. It bombed at the box office. It was yanked out of theaters after two weeks and grossed under one million dollars. It was also the most immersive experience I had in the theater this year.

Based on the novel of the same name by Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger was directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Room). It stars Domhnall Gleeson (A Futile and Stupid Gesture) as Dr. Faraday, a countryside doctor obsessed with the higher social class.

The movie costars Charlotte Rampling (The Verdict) and Ruth Wilson (The Affair) as members of the Ayres family. They play mother and daughter socialites that grow closer to Dr. Faraday after he helps their brother, Will Poulter (The Maze Runner), cope with his physical and mental war wounds.

The official tagline is “After a doctor is called to visit a crumbling manor, strange things begin to occur.”

Is the manor haunted? Are there ghosts or just the pall of a decaying family? Do the strange things have anything to do with the paranormal at all?

I considered these questions while sitting deep in my movie theater seat with my feet on the arms of the seat in front of me. I like to sit close to the front of the theater. The image is in my face, the sound surrounds me, and I get lost in the atmosphere. The Little Stranger creates an overbearing, unnerving atmosphere. I enjoyed it. Clearly, I’m in the minority, but this is worth a watch.

It’s Always the Quiet Ones

In a late August, Gleeson went on Happy, Sad, Confused, a podcast hosted by Josh Horowitz. Gleeson talked about how he had to take six months off after filming this movie. He played Dr. Faraday as an extremely repressed, seething man. He didn’t realize the effect it had on him till after the movie wrapped.

As an audience member, that made a lot of sense to me.

Gleeson’s character, Dr. Faraday is a guy who finds himself in a caretaker role. He watches over his patients as well as the crumbling Hundreds Hall manor that he is so obsessed with.

I’ve been in a caretaker role a couple of times in my life. It’s a severely isolating endeavor. It’s a bit dehumanizing, as well. You become a wallflower even in two person conversations. The things you say, even if light in nature, tend to carry a lot of weight.

More from Horror Movies

One of the most important things Dr. Faraday says in the whole movie is, “You’d be surprised how much of my job is just listening to other people.” He says this in a very resigned, yet savory voice.

Dr. Faraday is aware that people won’t necessarily do what they need to do in order to get healthy. What they really come for is the chance to tell someone in authority what’s troubling them. They may be gravely ill, but they saw a doctor about it. So, they did something to fight the illness.

In The Little Stranger, a once proud Ayres family is trying to hold on to the memory of their glory days. They let Dr. Faraday in because he has fond childhood memories of the manor. His mom had worked there when he was a child. He seems like he just wants to help the family and be a positive force in their lives. But Faraday is deeply repressed. He’s emotionally functional, but impossible to read.

When you’re a dutiful character in a respectable role such as a doctor, people just assume that you’re well meaning. But, what Dr. Faraday really meant in the quote was, ‘No one ever listens to what I’m saying. Because of that, I can do whatever I want.’