Screen sensation Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge, Eyes Wide Shut) delivers an utterly unforgettable performance in this scary and stylish suspense thriller! While awaiting her husband’s return from war, Grace (Kidman) and her two young children live an unusually isolated existence behind the locked doors and drawn curtains of a secluded island mansion. Then, after three mysterious servants arrive and it becomes chillingly clear that there is far more to this house than can be seen, Grace finds herself in a terrifying fight to save her children and keep her sanity! Acclaimed by critics everywhere, the unpredictable twists and turns of this compelling hit will keep you guessing as it keeps you riveted to the edge of your seat!
The Others 8.5
eyelights: the construction of the piece. the quality of the cast. the atmosphere. its visual quality.
eyesores: the blue-screening.
“This house is ours.”
‘The Others’ is a 2001 motion picture written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar, of ‘Abre los ojos’ and ‘Mar adentro’ fame. It was his first (and thus far only) English-language film, and it was a big hit at the North American and international box office, raking in over 200 million dollars on a 17 million dollar budget. Critically-acclaimed and nominated for countless awards, it made history for being the first Best Picture award winner at Spain’s Goya Awards not to have a word of Spanish in it and for being Spain’s highest-grossing film of all time.
A supernatural suspense picture starring Nicole Kidman, it tells the story of Grace and her two children, Anne and Nicholas, living alone in a Jersey country mansion while the husband is away to war. The picture begins with the arrival of three new servants to the house. The previous servants having left suddenly and without a word one week prior, they arrive at the perfect time: it’s a huge house and land, and Grace is very particular about the way things need to be done (always close the curtains when the kids are around, always lock a door before opening a new one, …etc.).
Soon after the servants’ arrival, unusual things begin to take place: Grace hears a child crying in the house, but neither of her kids admit to it – in fact Anne claims it’s another boy, named Victor. There are also loud noises, like stomping and dragging of furniture, but there is no explanation for it. Doors are left open, the piano is unlocked and played, the curtains disappear. Grace begins to wonder who is behind all of these disturbances, while the children admit to their new nanny that their mother has recently had a mental breakdown – she is admittedly wound tight.
But what could possibly be going on in that house?
It’s a grim setting: the land bathes in a thick grey fog and the house is lit with minimal lighting – both because of the curtains being drawn and because of the limited exterior light. It’s the perfect setting for a spooky movie, however, and Amenábar makes it look gorgeous, like a Gothic painting outside and awash in deep blacks inside. What’s great is that it’s not contrived one bit: fog is not uncommon in Britain and the limited lighting is due to the children’s rare skin condition, which has rendered them unusually photosensitive; they can only stand candlelight.
Amenábar has created a fine fright flick, one of the best ones in modern times. Told in a classic bedtime story fashion, complete with an opening narration and period drawings, it’s all atmosphere and psychological terror: there is no gore, no extreme scares, and even less violence than in one’s average action film. And yet it’s spooky: he manages to build the tension and create discomfort with his characters and situations, not with with visceral elements. He inserts all sorts of little touches that indicate that something’s amiss, to make us feel it subconsciously.
The best thing about ‘The Others’ is that its central mystery, while an important and an exceptional reveal, is not key to one’s enjoyment of the picture: one can watch the picture from a completely different angle even though one is fully aware of back story. Like ‘Memento‘, one can watch it, deconstruct it and marvel at how incredibly well thought out it is. In fact, watching it from that perspective increases one’s appreciation for the film, because it then becomes incredibly clear that Amenábar had thought every angle of his screenplay through.
He’s supported by a fine cast, thankfully. Nicole Kidman is excellent in the role of Grace. I’ve seen her better, and she may even be the weak link of the lot, if that’s saying anything, but she’s a stellar lead. The kids are fantastic. Children actors are rarely good, especially in horror films, but both are absolutely brilliant, completely convincing. The three servants are quite good too, with Fionnula Flanagan shining the most as the housekeeper who appears to know a lot more about what is going on in the house than she lets on. What does she know that we don’t?
‘The Others’ is an excellent motion picture. It’s even more impressive as a spooky film, because it’s so efficient: it works on many levels, something that very few of its ilk can boast about. Even more impressive is that it’s a movie that is suitable for nearly all ages, as it was designed to evoke chills in almost anyone. It leaves an impression, too: although I had only seen it the one time, over a decade ago, I vaguely remembered its key components when I sat down to watch it again. In a sea of generic, paint-by-numbers cinema made for mass consumption, that’s a rare treat.
Anyone looking for a good spooky picture should see ‘The Others’ at least once. After turning the lights down low, naturally.
Date of viewing: September 21, 2014