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NETFLIX'S THE STRAYS: A BLACK SUBURBAN HORROR STORY

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

"Cheryl is dragged to the fore front and accountability and revenge is demanded not only from her but from the family that Marvin and Abigail see as their white replacements."




A suburban horror story, viewed from the black perspective. You may see the final twist coming but it makes it no less satisfying. No doubt The Strays will illicit comparisons Jordan Peele’s black horrors, Us and Get Out. With his directorial debut Nathaniel Martello – White’s thriller highlights classism, racism, colorism, texturism (discrimination based on the texture of an individual's hair), PTSD and generational trauma.


The movie culminates in a home invasion that exposes the lead character and all her lies. Known for roles in Revenge and Salem, Ashley Madekwe plays Neve, a fair skinned black woman raising her bi-racial children in a predominantly white, upper class neighborhood with her husband Ian (Justin Salinger) and her teen children Sebastian and Mary ( Samuel Small and Maria Almedia), all while working at her children’s posh private school.


Neve painstakingly goes out of her way to blend in and maintain her place in white suburbia. She takes great care to code switch and practices her accent to emulate those around her. She uses make up to make her complexion fairer and hides her naturally curly hair with wigs. However that doesn’t dissuade her children from trying to connect to the African American side of them, despite their mother abhorring even hearing the word Black.


All that and Neve still deals with micro aggressions from the very class of people she is so desperate to impress and be accepted by. The Façade Neve has carefully curated is set to culminate with a High Society Gala that equates to her debutante ball. However, the arrival of an unexpected person from her past threatens to unravel her seemingly picture perfect life.

Told from a constantly shifting time jump perspective, we are introduced to the children Neve abandoned 20 Years earlier.


While it is unfortunate that we never properly get to delve into Neves back story, Ashley Madekwe makes Neve (once known as Cheryl) a 3 dimensional and fully realized Character. Close up cinematography by Adam Scarth along with the score created by French Pianist and composer Emilie Levienaise – Farrouch, are the perfect complement to Madekwes acting skills.


In the span of 4 chapters we meet Cheryl, before she becomes Neve. Cheryl is frustrated believing that she deserves better in life and that she is being held back and looked down on due to her race. Fleeing from an abusive relationship, we fast forward to find our protagonist, now named Neve scared that ever-advancing people from her past will fully undo her teetering sanity and home life.


Enter Carl and Dionne (newcomers Jorden Myrie and Bukky Bakray), under the alias Marvin and Abigail. They are Cheryl’s children, long since forgotten along with her former life. Brilliantly acted by Myrie and Bakray, we see the heart-breaking effects having an absentee mother has had on Marvin and Abigail’s life.


Sebastian and Mary are strategically befriended by their estranged siblings. Wavering between an inherent yearning to connect and an underlying rage, we are drawn into the mind of adult, unhealed children who simply want answers and acknowledgement from their mother. The heart break of their erasure reignited by an act they deemed the ultimate slap in the face leads to the climax of a Home Invasion.


While the script is jammed pact, and leaves some pertinent questions the Performances of Madekwe, Myrie and Bakray makes up for it. The final act sees Neve having to face her guilt and shame. Cheryl is dragged to the fore front and accountability and revenge is demanded not only from her but from the family that Marvin and Abigail see as their white replacements. The Crescendo takes us on an emotional rollercoaster as past and present collide. Finally escalating and leaving the audience gapped mouth and speech less.


Unable to face reality and in a last act of desperation and selfishness Neve easily makes the decision once again to put her wants and needs above all else. Despite some plot missteps this is a solid film that warrants a conversation and definitely is a smart way to open up larger conversations on the ugliness of self-hatred and colorism.


HAVE YOU SEEN IT? What did you think?

  • Loved it

  • It was ok...but i only need to see it once.

  • Hated it...


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