Directed by Alejandro Amenábar
Review by Matt Heffernan <email@example.com>
I don't think I've ever put off a review longer than this one. I saw The Others over a month ago -- a very busy, and recently eventful, month ago. Until a week ago, I was merely too busy with other projects to work on FilmHead.com in either a writing or editorial capacity. During the last week, writing about movies was the last thing on my mind. But now I, like the rest of the country (and the world, for that matter), must get back to normalcy, or at least the closest approximation we can muster. I don't want to go into a long editorial; this is a film review, so let's review a film.
The Others stars Nicole Kidman as Grace, a woman living on Jersey, in the Channel Islands, in 1945. Her husband is still missing in action, and she has lost all her servants, leaving her alone in a mansion with two small children. Three people (Fionnula Flanagan, Elaine Cassidy, and Eric Sykes), servants who worked at the mansion some years before Grace moved in, arrive to fill the vacant positions.
Grace goes over the rules of the house with the servants. Principally, her children (Alakina Mann and James Bentley) must never be exposed to sunlight, to which they have an allergic reaction. This requires all doors between rooms to be locked at all times, in order to control the flow of light. Mysteriously, however, the doors continually appear to be left open. Grace initially blames the servants, but soon her suspicions become supernatural when she and her children start to hear voices and vaguely see other people in the house with them.
This film provides the kind of horror that is rarely seen in this age of ironic, self-referential slasher films, and parodies thereof. Hardly a drop of blood is seen in The Others, yet it induces chills and shocks that its gory counterparts cannot even begin to inflict on their audiences. Its style is decidedly old-fashioned (certainly not in the vein of The Blair Witch Project, which created a new method for bloodless chills), while using modern special effects. However, unlike The Haunting, it uses the effects tastefully, and avoids superfluous spectacle.
Kidman and Flanagan both give strong performances and make the greatest contribution to the film's creepy atmosphere. Flanagan's character holds the secret to the film's hidden premise, which is unleashed in a bold surprise ending, and her understated, psychological conflict with Kidman (who has dark secrets of her own) keeps the film interesting through its more quiet moments.
One would think that the sheer abundance of these quiet moments, unheard of in contemporary horror, would diminish the potential audience for this film. On the contrary: it has become one of the surprise hits of late summer, showing stronger legs than all of the would-be blockbusters of the time. Word of mouth has certainly kept this success going, which pretty much makes this review obsolete upon arrival.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
The Others (2001)
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings
Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan