A self-described horror movie, The Little Stranger simply doesn't have the stuff to match up to even the most mediocre adherents of the genre. Horror tends to rely on suspense, mystery and empathy for the characters to scare viewers—or, at the very least, to interest them. This film strays from these core concepts, however, instead focusing on irrelevant, half-baked characters and occurrences that do little to further the plot.
Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars) plays Doctor Faraday, a country healer who treats a fallen-from-grace aristocratic family of three in the English countryside. He's supposed to be the protagonist, more or less, but winds up exceedingly bland and lacking any semblance of character development. Like most movies of this sort, there is a forced love interest named Caroline (Ruth Wilson), a member of the family and the only likable character. But she and Faraday have absolutely no chemistry—he barely manages to summon a smirk when interacting with her. Caroline is sharp and friendly, though, despite her brother Roderick (Will Poulter), a creepy burn victim who may or may not be psychic. His role in the film is largely inconsequential, and their mother, known simply as Mrs. Ayres (Red Sparrow's Charlotte Rampling) lacks personality.
As for prospective viewers, may God have mercy on their souls, for those expecting some semblance of a plot will be thoroughly disappointed. The vast majority of The Little Stranger is an attempt at coloring the setting rather than trying to connect with viewers. There is no payoff of any kind as the obligatory twist is extremely predictable and unrelated to anything that happens elsewhere in the narrative. Some may find an interesting dynamic of class-conflict; I personally didn't find it particularly compelling or to have any interesting insights. The terror that the director may have been attempting to convey—how social class can make people feel claustrophobic—felt unexplored. However, worst of all, it's boring; the characters have no personality, there is no plot.
+ Interesting setting, some deep themes
– Everything else, particularly the plot
The Little Stranger
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
With Gleeson, Dylan, Poulter and Rampling
Violet Crown, R, 111 min.