top of page
  • Writer's pictureMaxwell J.

The Strays (2023) is Middling Social Horror Partially Redeemed with a Bonkers Final Act

Title: The Strays

First Non-Festival Release: February 22, 2023 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)

Director: Nathaniel Martello-White

Writer: Nathaniel Martello-White

Runtime: 100 Minutes

Starring: Ashley Madekwe, Bukky Barkray, Jorden Myrie

Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here

Life can get overwhelming, especially when all the odds seem stacked against you. Oftentimes, the idea of running away and starting over is enough to get someone to pull through at their lowest and make their situation work.

But not Cheryl (Ashley Madekwe). She decides to walk out of her life without a single regret and start over as a new person. Thus, Neve (Ashley Madekwe) is born. Many years later Neve is well-adjusted in a quaint little suburb far away from the big city she toiled in, married to a nice man named Ian (Justin Salinger) while also being a loving mom to her two children Sebastian (Samuel Paul Small) and Mary (Maria Almeida). Her perfect life crumbles into pieces when two people (Bukky Barkray, Jorden Myrie) from her previous life find and confront her.

Tense but misguided, The Strays is confused social commentary meets paranoid home invasion horror.

While social commentary-laced horror has been a staple of the genre since its inception, a recent trend in a particular formula of so-called ‘elevated horror’ has been clamoring to mimic the box office and critical reception of certain success stories. The Strays attempts to capture this with mediocre results. Its circuitous story and unfocused messaging try to tie together ideas surrounding racism, colorism, and classism without care.


By the end of act one, we learn that the strangers stalking Neve are the children she abandoned when life got too tough in London. This is a confusing reveal, especially once we learn how they came to find Neve. The first act sets up the film to have some sort of paranormal influence making the revelation fall flat. When Dione and Carl ingratiate themselves into her life, they do so in a rather mundane way. In the first act, Neve suffers terrifying nightmares and paralyzing hallucinations that imply something far greater is happening. There isn’t. This plot point is dropped as soon as we meet Carl and Dione and is never mentioned again.

Neve is forced to confront the reasons for why she left and the consequences for her actions. Her decision to run is tied in with both maternal abandonment and the concept of running away from her Blackness. When her situation got tough, she sought out an escape that helped her without thinking of how it would impact her kids. She proves that self-preservation is her most valued trait.

Even outside of the horror of the story, Neve finds ways to make everything about her and her needs. Her decision to host a gala to raise money for children in Gambia is for her social stock and not the actual cause. In fact, to gain social favor Neve buys the nicest things for her family, works her way up to Headmistress of a private school, and pushes her children away from anything that ties them to Blackness, like Lil Wayne posters and a specific style of braids. Somehow her decision to pay off Carl and Dione without even asking what kind of support they need is eclipsed by the ultimate act of leaving once again, opting to start over her life once more regardless of who she leaves in her wake.

While this characterization by itself is well thought-out, the social commentary fizzles out in the final act. The Strays has plenty to say on racism, colorism, and classism, but these issues get messy. Its final act makes some wild decisions that perpetuate harmful stereotypes against several of the Black characters. Carl and Dione are painted as vindictive against Neve but take out their frustrations on her family who has done nothing to them. Carl is especially painted to be violent and cruel while engaging in activities that Neve associates with lower class behavior. This can also be said about the depiction of Neve, a Black woman, as at blame for running away from her responsibilities as a mom and distancing herself from Blackness, but those are more in line with the themes of the film. While Black characters shouldn’t have to exist in a box of perfection, it can still open conversations on the choice to depict darker skin Black people in a certain light compared to the biracial children and even the general white population of the suburb.


The Strays may be ultimately disappointing, but it does do plenty of things right. The tension in the final act is exceptionally well done. Its combination of unpredictable decisions by the strangers and the buildup of suspense from the running water, the incoming UberEats order, and the celebration of Dione’s birthday all come together to make a truly chaotic final act.

It doesn’t reach the heights of the promise of its baseline premise, but The Strays delivers a fine socially tinged horror thriller experience for its audience. Some rough acting and writing make way for a few truly intense scenes in the end, as well as its bombshell final minute that will leave most people wide-eyed and mouth agape. Netflix certainly has better offering but if The Strays is on your mind, feel free to catch an invite to this interesting slice of British cinema.

Overall Score? 5/10

4 views0 comments
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page