The Others (2001) – Ranking 4 out of 5

The Others (2001) – Ranking 4 out of 5

A welcome throwback to the spooky traditions of Jack Clayton’s The Innocents and Robert Wise’s The Haunting, Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others favors atmosphere, sound, and suggestion over flashy special effects. Set in 1945 on a fog-enshrouded island off the British coast, the film begins with a scream as Grace (Nicole Kidman) awakens from some unspoken horror, perhaps arising from her religiously overprotective concern for her young children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley). The children are hypersensitive to light and have lived in a musty manor with curtains and shutters perpetually drawn. With Grace’s husband presumably lost at war, this ominous setting perfectly accommodates a sense of dreaded expectation, escalating when three strangers arrive in response to Grace’s yet-unposted request for domestic help. Led by housekeeper Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), this mysterious trio is as closely tied to the house’s history as Grace’s family is–as are the past occupants seen posthumously posed in a long-forgotten photo album.

With her justly acclaimed performance, Kidman maintains an emotional intensity that fuels the film’s supernatural underpinnings. And while Amenábar’s pacing is deliberately slow, it befits the tone of penetrating anxiety, leading to a twist that extends the story’s reach from beyond the grave. Amenábar unveiled a similarly effective twist in his Spanish thriller Open Your Eyes (remade by Cameron Crowe as Vanilla Sky), but where that film drew debate, The Others is finely crafted to provoke well-earned goose bumps and chills down the spine.

If you’re only a fan of the slasher horror flicks (Saw, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th) then this movie isn’t for you. However if you also like to indulge in atmospheric movies like The Sixth Sense or The Exorcism of Emily Rose then there is plenty to love in this movie.

Slow, dark and suspenseful, The Others slowly moves along building a story of a mother’s attempt to maintain her family on her own during the war. Her children are hypersensitive to light so the curtains must be drawn at all time keeping everything hidden in the dark.

Three strangers come to help take care of the house and the children, but they seem to know a lot more than they tell. They arrive before the request for servants help is even posted.

As we move along we get the sense that the pressure of losing her husband and taking care of the children on her own may be stressing mom to the breaking point. The children clue us in with “It’s happening again” or “What if she does it again” kind of phrases that lead us to believe mom may be starting to lose her grip. We can certainly see the tension building as she becomes increasingly short and terse with the children and the staff.

By the end we’re not sure who we should be afraid of. Has mom begun to lose her sanity? Have the new arrivals something sinister in mind to perhaps take over the house for themselves? Did they do something to the previous owners since they know so much about them?

The end of the movies presents a unique twist, but makes the movie all the more intriguing. The ending cinches the movie as one you need to see a second time to pick up all the clues. It’s a gloomy an atmospheric movie that has great acting, wonderful fog covered scenes and takes you on a slow journey of suspense. No gore, no blood, no crazed villains with chainsaws, just a dark and mysterious tale worth watching.

The Others – $12.49

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