Gothic-tinged, dark horror stories haven’t fared particularly well of late. Winchester came and went without much buzz, as have a few other recent entries. This week The Little Stranger tries to break through into some level of success. The movie stars Domhnall Gleeson as Dr. Faraday, a young man called back to an English estate he frequented as a child because his mother worked as a servant there.
Reacquainted with the Ayers family that still lives there, Faraday soon finds things are not as they once were. Not only is the once-lavish house now crumbling and dingy but so are the people. The children are haunted by something mysterious that seems to want everyone out of the house, while Caroline Ayers (Ruth Wilson) tries to manage the house as well as the matriarch, played by Charlotte Rampling.
Metaphors are mixed in the tagline on the first poster, “From small acorns, dark mysteries grow.” That copy is meant to play up the spookiness of the photo, which is kind of confusing and a bit trippy. The main characters are posed as if for a formal portrait, but the house in the background is actually a framed painting. The little girl off to the side is looking toward the painting, but she sees a skewed reflection of herself as the little boy who may be haunting the house and causing all sorts of problems. In short, there’s a lot of juxtaposition happening here.
The second keeps the house in the background, but the main image is a profile of Gleeson’s Faraday, the paint cracking and chipping from his face so not only are there lines running down his neck but the entire top half of his face has come off. “These delusions are contagious,” the copy tells us.
As Dr. Faraday returns to a place he used to know as a child he marks, as the trailer opens, how much it has changed, appearing far less imposing and magical than it did years before. He’s been called there to help care for a member of the family that has lived there for centuries and who has been acting strangely, something Faraday attributes to “war shock.” There are odd things happening that point to something spooky residing in the house that’s tormenting the residents. Faraday keeps looking for rational explanations but events continue defying his efforts.
Gleeson seems to be carving out a nice little career for himself jumping all over to different genres and looks to be tackling the “haunted mid-20th century family home” category with his usual talent. The story looks fairly basic and predictable, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t likely a few surprises along the way.
Online and Social
Focus has used its standard site template for the movie’s online presence, opening with the trailer and placing the content further down the site, accessible via clicking on the various photos and images. There’s not a ton of additional information, mostly just an “About” section and bios of the principle cast. Links to the movie’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are also there at the top of the site.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
I haven’t seen any paid efforts, but may have missed something.
Media and Publicity
The filmmakers talked at the movie’s premiere about turning the book into a movie and how they approached that task.
GQ profiled Gleeson in a piece that covered his career to date and talked about this movie in particular, but also focused on how he’s been able to create a significantly diverse and eclectic filmography over the last several years. A more succinct overview was offered here.
Wilson was interviewed about what attracted her to the role of Caroline and what she thinks of horror films as a whole. Wilson, Gleeson and director Lenny Abrahamson all appeared on the BUILD Series to talk about similar themes.
Arclight Cinemas in LA hosted an exhibition of the costumes and wardrobe from the movie.
The appeal on display here is pretty standard, selling the audience on a movie filled with strange noises, mysterious happenings and a house filled with memories that aren’t all pleasant along with a family which has plenty of skeletons it would like to remain hidden. Gleeson and Wilson seem to give it their all to breathe life into the genre, but it remains to be seen if it actually offers anything original.
The biggest thing the movie has going for it is that this weekend is pretty weak in terms of new offerings. The primary competition it faces isn’t Operation Finale, it’s the third weekend of Crazy Rich Asians. It if can bring out genre fans who are biding their time until the next Blumhouse release, it might do alright.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.