The Little Stranger – Review
by Anita Markoff
An odd mixture of a period drama and horror film, The Little Stranger attempts to explore the violence male desire can inflict on women trapped in the liminal space of a haunted house.
The slow-paced plot and dull colour palette are punctuated with splashes of male rage. It is the women who are always the victims: a girl mangled by a dog, a girl dying of a mysterious illness, a woman trapped in a bedroom sliced open by glass, a woman falling over the edge of a staircase to her death, a woman whispering a tense ‘no, stop’, fumbling for the handle of a car door. The women suffer, the man wants. He wants a wife. He wants the house. He wants and fills the screen with his wanting, stalking with confidence in and out of the liminal space the women are confined in. The ghost story becomes a whisper in the background compared to the film’s stronger subliminal message about male desire. Due to the overwhelming focus on theme rather than plot, the film does not function well as a horror story. The trope of using mirrors to indicate inner tensions is overdone. The violent scenes are predictable, and the red herrings which attempt to create mystery around the identity of the person haunting the house are too easy to see through. The image is filmy, but instead of producing an eerie effect it just makes the footage appear old. The films it draws on for reference, such as The Others and The Devil’s Backbone, are of better quality, which reduces the effectiveness of the intertextuality. The slow build to a climax is too slow, and saps any tension from the film.
Overall, despite the compelling message, the viewer leaves the screen dissatisfied without having experienced the haunting eeriness a real horror film impresses on your mind.