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The Others
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The Others (2001)

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Plot Summary:
"A woman named Grace retires with her two children to a mansion placed on an island near the English Coast, towards the end of the Second World War, where she's waiting for her husband to come back from battle. The children have a disease which means they cannot be touched by direct sunlight without being hurt in some way. They will live alone there with oppressive, strange and almost religious rules (eg. "don't open a door until you've closed the previous"), until she needs to hire a group of servants for them. Their arrival will accidentally begin to break the rules with unexpected consequences."

Review by
Ryan McDonald
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Review Date: 20 October 2016 My Rating: out of 5


Set in 1945 somewhere off the North coast of England, Nicole Kidman is Grace, a devoutly Christian mother and wife who lives in an isolated mansion with her two children (played by Alakina Mann and James Bentley), who are apparently very light-sensitive. Her husband, meanwhile is off fighting in the war and has been gone quite a while, possibly even dead. Their servants walked off the job some time back and don’t seem to be returning. Into their lives come three new servants played by Fionnula Flanagan, Eric Sykes, and mute Elaine Cassidy. Grace becomes concerned after a while that the servants aren’t heeding her rules properly, which include never opening the curtains, and always closing the door behind you before opening another. These are very important, as they pertain to the children’s health and safety. Meanwhile, Grace is also starting to worry about the kids’ tales of ghostly presences in the house, particularly from wilful daughter Anne (Mann). However, she slowly starts to wonder if the kids might be telling the truth.

Reminiscent of films like “The Innocents”, “The Sixth Sense”, and the Bette Davis flick from Hammer films “The Nanny”, this 2001 film from writer-director Alejandro Amenabar (“The Sea Inside”, “Vanilla Sky”) works best if you don’t go in expecting a horror film. I wouldn’t call it a pure horror film, as that would set people up for disappointment. Yes, the foggy moors, old mansion and ghostly trappings do lead one to think straight-up Gothic horror, but for me, it’s a tad too drama-oriented to be labelled solely as horror. That slow-paced mystery/drama approach ultimately stops it from being genuinely tense and scary, which may or may not be that much of an issue for you. For me, it’s frustratingly just short of being a complete success. Poor child performances (by an amateurish and irritatingly wet James Bentley in particular), and a pretty agonising pace wore on my nerves just a tad too much.

It’s such a shame, because this thing looks absolutely bloody amazing, thanks largely to the expert cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe (“The Road”, “Blue Jasmine”, the remake of “Poltergeist”), with especially nice use of low-angles at times. Visually, it’s pretty much my kind of thing. The director himself is responsible for the excellent music score, classic chiller music score if ever I’ve heard one. So that works, too. Although not scary, it’s at the very least atmospheric in the best tradition of 50s and 60s (particularly British) horror. As far as I’m concerned, a horror film doesn’t have to be scary, although to be fair, I do believe the film tried and failed to be scary at times, ultimately leaving itself in the shadow of better films with similar genre trappings that were more willing to go the horror route, or were simply more successful in execution. Still, the atmosphere does help compensate to a certain degree for me, though your mileage may be different to mine.

A very, very tightly wound Nicole Kidman has one of her best roles and gives a rock-solid performance, probably among her most impressive. Although I find her a tad annoying with her slightly too cute Irish lilt, Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan and British comedy veteran Eric Sykes are also good in support. Flanagan has a certain way about her here that allows her to be potentially either genial or sinister, without ever overtly tipping her hat as to her character’s ultimate destination.

Atmospheric, stunningly photographed film with a fine lead performance by Nicole Kidman, and a classic, if predictable story. Ultimately, a couple of irritating child performances and a deathly slow pace bring it up just short. This could've been a winner, instead it's just an OK horror-mystery.

Reviewer: John Dedeke @horrorasylum
Review Date: 31 October 2001 My Rating: out of 5

# When you've seen so many haunted house movies that they all run together, you begin to find yourself somewhat jaded towards the genre altogether. The past few years have seen an on-and-off resurgence in haunted house flicks, some good but mostly bad. Even blockbuster movies like THE SIXTH SENSE and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT contain certain elements of haunted house movies. By and large, though, few of the recent ghostly flicks have managed to interest audiences or generate any genuine scares -- which is what they're supposed to do. All too often, much more attention is paid these days to 'hip' casts and big-name directors as opposed to compelling stories or chilling visual style. That's what makes Alejandro Amenabar's THE OTHERS so surprising. It excels in both of those categories.

The year is . The setting is the Jersey in the Channel Islands, a perpetually mist-shrouded world where each home is isolated by miles and miles of fields and forests. The war has ended, but strict and righteous Grace has received no word from her husband, forcing her to continue raising her children on her own. Just one week prior to the opening moments of the story, all of the servants disappeared overnight, leaving Grace with the even more trying task of keeping up her massive home and ensuring that no bright light reaches the children, for prolonged exposure could kill them both. It is because of all this that when three new servants suddenly appear at her doorstep, Grace immediately accepts their help without thinking twice. She begins to question the decision, however, when strange things begin to take place all over the house, setting up one of the most riveting fight films of the past year.

THE OTHERS has a very classic appeal in many respects. It plays like a lost Universal-era ghost film, with Nicole Kidman fitting wonderfully into a role that could have easily been written for Lana Turner or Grace Kelly (perhaps the inspiration for the 'Grace' character). The tone is calm and quiet, making the moments when things get loud and aggressive stand out even more. Writer/director Alejandro Amenabar, whose previous credits include the films THESIS and OPEN YOUR EYES (premise for the Tom Cruise film VANILLA SKY), shows the skill of a weathered professional with his masterful staging and absolutely beautiful camerawork. Add in some refreshingly bare-bones special effects and a haunting score, and THE OTHERS has a recipe for perfection.

Now that's not to say that the film is perfect. It does fall short ever-so-slightly here and there, mostly in terms of the (almost obligatory, these days) twists and turns of its story. The 'surprises' may not shock every viewer (most seasoned horror fans will likely see what's coming long before it gets there), but this doesn't hinder the film as much as you might think. Unlike a movie like THE SIXTH SENSE (which THE OTHERS has been unfairly compared to), it is not necessarily the revelation of the final moments of the film that is so entertaining, but rather the journey the characters take to get to that revelation. The evolution of Grace (as well as that of her daughter Anne) through the film is marvelously well-rounded and believable, and, most importantly, compelling. You might think you know exactly what is going to happen to her, but that doesn't make watching it happen any less interesting or enjoyable.

And the film is scary. It was a stroke of brilliance working the children's aversion to light into the story, casting % of the film in darkness. Clever direction and an amazing use of sound make even the most simplistic scenes and actions overwhelmingly scary. It's hard to find a haunted house movie, even in these days of constant Hollywood repetition, that combines the important elements in such a satisfying way; it's almost impossible to find one that does it as well as THE OTHERS.

Wonderfully written, beautifully photographed, and really, really spooky, THE OTHERS is a classic haunted house flick. It's a complete package of great performances, smart scares, and eerie atmosphere; a truly satisfying little flick.

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