on May 31, 2002
This movie has a number of levels, many of which are not immediately apparent because of the excellent acting, near perfect casting and exquisite cinematography. On the artistic level the movie will appeal more to artists and writers, and to those who enjoy a well crafted plot and a surprise ending.
On another level, though, this movie will inspire a self examination of how one perceives realities. It does this by exposing the filters and assumptions that we all use when observing and mentally correlating those observations with our knowledge of fact into our realities. It also has an obvious message about coexistence and acceptance.
Regardless of whether or not one believes in the supernatural, the story and the ending will be completely unexpected for most who watch this movie. The many clues wrapped in foreshadowing and other plot devices will not make sense until the end, but if you carefully examine them a day or so after watching this movie you'll have some keen insights into your own unique set of filters and assumptions that you use daily.
There are other levels and messages within this movie that will surface days or weeks after watching it, such as the way the female characters are portrayed as more proactive, central figures than the male characters. The movie also challenges religious beliefs in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. I am not sure if this is yet another subtle layer of the plot or if it reflects the views and biases of the writers and director - but these elements are there.
If you enjoy great dialog and a masterful story with an interesting plot that is presented with beautiful visuals then you'll love this movie on an artistic level. If you enjoy mental challenges and subtlety that is presented with social and cogitative challenges you'll love this movie on a deeper level.
on August 21, 2001
Highly atmospheric and foreboding, "The Others" is unlike any ghost story I've seen since Robert Wise's "The Haunting" in 1963. Director Alejandro Amenabar brings to the screen a uniquely chilling tale that slowly makes its way under our skin until it's almost unbearable. I don't know which aspect of the film I liked better: the ominous setting where the eerie story takes place, or the magnificent performance from Nicole Kidman.
Kidman plays Grace, a mother of two children living in an expansive New England mansion surrounded by a ceaseless fog and dry vegetation. When three house servants show up at her door, they are bewildered by the manner in which Grace runs the household, closing each door before opening another, and closing any and all curtains to prevent all sunlight from invading the rooms.
We learn the sunlight is harmful to her young children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley). From the beginning, Anne speaks of a past event that occurred between her and her mother, and of apparitions throughout the house. Grace dismisses her comments as rubbish, but becomes increasingly uneasy once she begins hearing voices in the upstairs rooms, and finds that doors in the house open and close by themselves without a key.
As the movie progresses, Amenabar creates a distinctly uneasy atmosphere in which even the audience knows better than to look at this house as little more than an expensive home. From a continuous fog to the whisperings of voices and things that go bump in the night, the scares come not from what we see, but what we don't see, which is even scarier than you may think. Amenabar proves that one needn't be subjected to a special effect in order to be frightened.
What helps the movie is the fact that it has a solid story to back its scares. What starts out as a slow-moving introduction to the characters and settings evolves into a first-class mystery on par with such mysteries as "The Sixth Sense," though this film's clues are much more apparent. You may have found the pieces to the puzzle involving the three housekeepers, but that doesn't mean you've solved the film's resolution, which is an unexpected gem.
The real delight comes from the involving performance from Nicole Kidman, who evokes much of the fear throughout the film. There are times when she slowly makes her way into rooms to investigate suspicious noises, her eyes growing wider with psychological fear, and times when she becomes frantic, such as when she searches desperately for the curtains taken from the windows.
"The Others" may very well be one of the best scare films we've ever seen. Amenabar gives his unique story a sense of fear that comes from the mind. In a decade of born-again slasher pics and gory bloodshed and mayhem, it's nice to be able to embrace something entirely different from the rest.
To a certain extent, one's enjoyment of THE OTHERS will depend on how quickly you recognize the major plot device on which the entire film turns. Once recognition sets in, how much you are able to further enjoy the film will then depend on how much you have become engaged by the characters--and it is here, really, that the film stumbles a bit, not so much through the way it is done but rather through the way the characters must be played in order for their behavior to make sense at the film's conclusion.
The premise, which seems deeply influenced by both Henry James' THE TURN OF THE SCREW and the 1960s film version known as THE INNOCENTS, concerns a woman who resides with her two children in an isloated mansion following World War II. Her situation is dire: her husband is missing in action and presumed dead; her children suffer from a rare genetic disease that makes sunlight dangerous to them; her servants have departed in the night without a word of warning. The latter problem seems remedied by the arrival of new servants--but no sooner are they installed than odd happenings begin to occur. Is the woman going mad? Are the servants involved? Have intruders secretly entered the house? Or could it be--something unearthly?
The cast is exceptionally good here, with Fionnula Flanagan as the newly arrived servant Mrs. Mills and children Alakina Mann and James Bentley giving remarkable performances. But the focus is on Nicole Kiddman as Grace, a role that Kiddman plays with a white-knuckled grip and considerable ferocity--so much so that it becomes extremely difficult to like, much less sympathize, with the character. In some respects, however, this is ultimately necessary for this extremely plot-driven film to have any significant impact, and in hindsight it is hard to imagine that the role could be played in any other way; still, hindsight does not allow you to engage fully with the character when you are in the midst of the film. It is a flaw, but it is an unavoidable one--and the film is so remarkably stylish that it largely overcomes both the anticipated plot-twist and Kiddman's necessarily ferocious performance.
The production values are first rate all the way down the line. Everything looks right, sounds right, feels right. But two items deserve special mention: the exceptional soundtrack, which was composed by director Alejandro Amenabar himself, and the stunning cinematography, which has tremendous visual texture and which neatly blends a fluidity of movement with a remarkably claustrophobic feel. If your tastes run to special effects and blood-spatter horror films, you are likely to disappointed, for there are none in THE OTHERS; Amenabar craftily creates tension more via what is suggested rather than shown, and doors left ajar and half-heard sounds are his devices of choice; it is all very subtle and yet remarkably chilling.
The DVD package is a double-disk set, with the film on one disk and bonuses on the other. Although the bonuses are often quite interesting--particularly a documentary on individuals who actually suffer from hyper-sensitively to sunlight--they actually contribute little to the film itself, and it is a bit surprising that such a small bonus package would require a second disk. The sound for the feature is also problematic re home viewing, and I recommend that viewers play it at top volume, for there is no middle ground--everything is very quiet or very loud, and the contrast adds tremendously to the film's effect.
It is extremely difficult to know how to rate this film, for as I've noted the very nature of the story has two embedded flaws: the almost inevitable recognition of the major plot device and the necessity of Kiddman's over-the-top performance. But even though I recognized the nature of the plot device very early in the film, and even though I found "Grace" an unlikeable woman, this did not actually prevent me from feeling the icy breath with which director Amenabar endows THE OTHERS. Torn between giving the film four stars and five, I err on the side of generosity; it is a classic-style ghost story, and I think most viewers will enjoy it. Reccommended.
The Others isn't your typical ghost story; there isn't the quantity of jump-out-of-your-seat thrills you'd expect to find in a film like this. In fact, The Others is virtually chill-free for the first hour. But what The Others lacks in quantity, it makes up in quality. Instead of a roller coaster of cheap chills and thrills, The Others takes a much denser and darker approach to the ghost story.
The Others takes a considerable amount of time to set everything up - almost too much. Halfway through the movie I wondered if there was going to be a pay off. Ultimately there is quite a pay off, but it takes so long to get there you might not feel it's 'worth it'. Despite the fact that I found The Others to be quite slow, I did enjoy it. Nicole Kidman does a great job as the neurotic and tortured lead, and she's backed up by a strong supporting cast. Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar lights almost the entire movie by candle light, something I haven't seen since Barry Lyndon. This gives The Others a soft and warm look that is uncommon to the genre. Amenabar also makes light a character in the film, where daylight becomes much scarier than the warmth and comfort of the dark. If you're planning on seeing The Others, I'd advise you to avoid reading any reviews which talk about the plot. The film takes a number of twists and turns which can easily be spoiled. This might be a good film to wait for DVD, except for the risk of the plot getting spoiled before you get a chance to see it. [Geoffrey Kleinman ...
on August 18, 2001
The Others is one of the most brilliantly paced horror films I've ever seen. It has a delightful eerieness the entire way through and the casting is amazing. The character of Bertha really creates fear and distrust in your heart along with Mr. Tuttle and Lydia. The children were magnificently chosen and Nicole Kidman hasn't been this good since Dead Calm, if not better. Turns out she is a very talented actress. The dialogue in this is also cunning and brilliant. One of the most interesting and amusing lines to me was when Kidman is looking through the "dead photos" and says to Ms. Mills..."group portraits?". The ending is so very clever, very eerie and it really does surprise you. Not to mention, all throughout the movie, there are little heart in your throat moments. Everyone keeps comparing it, but this is so much better than Sixth Sense. I think the mood and tone are much more like Village of the Damned with those spooky children. Definitely recommend checking it out for yourself. Don't take the kids.
on May 31, 2002
Alejandro Amenabar is the creative genius behind the Cruise/Wagner sleeper hit, The Others starring Nicole Kidman. I hadn't seen this film in the theatres and fortunately, no one had spoiled the ending for me. Thank God, because part of this movies attraction is the way the plot unfolds little by little, setting up a mystery that's a lot of fun to guess at. It's a truly "Hitchcockian" storyline that teases the audience throughout the film. I had to watch this film twice to pick up on all the subtle clues.
Aside from the great story, the acting in this film is fantastic. I've heard people say that Nicole Kidman is the star of this movie, but the one who really shines is new comer Alkina Mann who plays Kidmans daughter. Her reactions are so real and geniune you forget she's an actor playing a character.
This movie is also scary. If the Blair Witch Project had you squirming and you liked The Sixth Sense, this movie will have you jumping out of your skin in some places.
It's amazing to think that this is Alejandro Amenabars first English speaking movie. Not only that but he wrote it, directed it AND did the music for it, which is nicely stark, baroque and very beautiful in some places. A true cinematic Masterpiece.
See this film!
on June 29, 2002
This eerie, candlelit film mostly taking place in a large but claustrophobic manor house exerts a static pressure that is relentless. So many doors and all must be locked, unlocked, and relocked. Curtains must be closed at all times, then drawn tighter lest a ray of lights gets through. The two children of the house have a rare genetic allergy to light (Polymorphic Light Reaction Syndrome) and can suffer blisters, boils, even 3rd degree burns if exposed to sunlight. The time is 1945, the mother and children are alone in the house, the husband/father is missing in action, presumed dead
While the credits roll, the mother, Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) is reading to the children by candlelight. All are seated around a table presenting a homey, if somewhat shadowy, scene. The movie formally begins with a petrifying scream by Grace jolted awake from a nightmare in her pleasant sun-filled bedroom. She quickly dresses and rushes to answer the doorbell. Nicole Kidman convinces in a glance that her character is strung out taut as a bowstring, but striving to contain her many fears and anxieties. She dresses in a dowdy manner---skirt a bit long, dowdy shoes, and sensible tweeds. She has a remarkable resemblance to the late Grace Kelly in this film, which I think shows Kidman's forensic abilities. Kidman is naturally graceful, which Kelly was not. The mother's edgy movements and slight awkwardness heighten her fragility and rigid inflexibility.
A strange trio greets her at the door who inform her they have come in response to her need for servants. (Grace has not yet advertised). They are housekeeper Mrs. Mills (the marvelous Fionnula Flanagan, who is presently appearing in the Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood in a completely different type of role), a Gardner, and a mute girl-of-all-work. Grace, though flustered, immediately shows them around and explains their complicated duties. They meet the two children who are quickly drawn to the kindly Ms. Mills. The little girl Anne (Alakina Mann) is especially commendable for her perfect balance of sweetness, suspicions, and stubbornness that always seem just right for a very bright little girl.
Particularly grating on the mother is the ghostly goings on in the old house. Music plays, doors open and shut, footsteps are heard, and the children refer to a boy named Victor who visits them. These occurrences are almost too much for the mother who has an unbending, fundamental, religious outlook. The servants obviously know a lot more than they are saying about what is going on in the house.
This somber, almost stately film has a jolting crash of a conclusion. So startling was this finale, the moviegoer does not even have time to grasp the consequences---and it is over. An excellent film. Kudos to the director and his star!
on October 19, 2011
What a great surprise "the Others" was! In the wake of a glut of "Sixth Sense" clones, I see the dead, I talk to the dead, I help the dead, the haunted house/ghost movie sub-genre was getting as stale as the overworked Zombie sub-genre. Dozens upon dozens of films, both big budget & straight to video haunting every rental DVD shelve in six continents! I was tired of seeing people in movies seeing the dead, ad nauseam.
So why was "the Others" so different? First of all, it was not a "Sixth Sense" clone, if anything, a anti "Sixth Sense." It was not a modern day haunted house/ghost film at all, but harkened back to "The Innocents" from 1961. It also reminded me of another great early 60's film, that was not a horror film at all, but had it's spooky moments, 1962's, "To Kill a Mockingbird." Both these films had a brother & sister as main characters. Both these films had a single parent main character, or in the case "of "the Innocents," a nanny/governess, who was hired by a single parent. Both those films had strong bonds between the siblings. "The Others," mother character, & "the Innocents," governess character, were both overwrought to the point of insanity. All three films share a very intimate almost child like opening soundtrack. "The Others" & "To Kill a Mockingbird," especially. All three films were intimate, not a large cast, nor did they need one, though "To Kill a Mockingbird" did have a larger cast of characters, though it still remained a intimate childhood story of a adult world.
It has been said that Nicole Kidman's performance as "Grace Stewart" in "the Others," is the greatest of her career, & I have to agree. Nicole is the epitome of a woman pushed over the edge of insanity. A nervous break down performance if there ever was one! It must have drained her, not only mentally, but physically. The siblings, Alakina Mann as "Anne Stewart," & James Bently as "Nicholas Stewart," provide this film with some of the strongest & most believable child performances I've ever seen! The supporting cast was excellent as well.
"The Others" work so well because a taught & sturdy script, claustrophobic cinematography, spot on directing, & a soundtrack that is subtle, & when need be, crashing down like thunder. But it is the totally convincing acting, the effective spooky yet elegant mansion, & the tense well done sound effects that make this movie genuinely scary. It is the imagination of what could be lurking around the corner or behind a door that raises the prickly hairs on my neck. The thump in the dark. It is the twist ending that just blows me away every time I see this film! It is truly, the anti "Sixth Sense," just when the badly over trodden haunted house/ghost sub-genre needed it the most!
This Blu-ray is highly recommended as a upgrade. Colors, images, lighting, & sound are about as good as it gets for a film like this!
5 Stars = Masterpiece
on September 16, 2001
Nicole Kidman? Scary movie? A Miramax Film? Yeah, that's what I thought when I first heard of "The Others." Now, I work at a movie theatre, so I get to see the movies before they actually come out (which is why I love to review them). So, I watched the staff showing, only because everyone else decided to. I was amazed at how awesome this movie is. It's freaky, it really is! There is barely any music in the whole movie, so it gives a very eerie quiet feeling. Yes, this movie will make you jump in your seat...a couple of times actually. Kidman didn't do that bad of a job acting scared, and the two kids (with cool British accents [I love British accents]) are great young actors. The ending rules too!!! See it as soon as you can when you're in the mood for a freaky movie. I suggest 13 and older for this movie due to thematic elements and frightening moments.
I waited a long time to see "The Others" but only because it was playing at all of the worst, most inconvenient theaters in LA. I was waiting for the opportunity to see it on a somewhat respectable screen, to enhance my viewing experience. I fully believe that the screen and theater play a big part in the overall enjoyment of a film. If you see an OK film at a shoebox theater, you will likely report that the film was no good. If you see a bad film at a good theater, you will probably enjoy the film a little more. Over the Labor Day Weekend, I found myself on vacation, with a few hours on my hand, and `The Others' playing at a theater nearby. Unfortunately, the theater was one of the absolute worst that I have ever been in, so it may have colored my judgement a little. Note to theater goers: It is absolutely the most inconsiderate thing in the world to bring a cell phone to a movie theater and take calls during the film. It is inconceivably inconsiderate to take calls on a cell phone that lights up, casting shadows and a laser light show throughout the small, darkened theater. If this happened once, I could understand the mistake, but three or four times? Turn your damn cell phones and pagers off. People can call you back after the movie!
Now, about the movie...
Grace (Nicole Kidman) and her two children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley) live in an old mansion on Jersey, an island off the English coast, during World War II. Grace, a puritanical woman, devoutly quoting the bible, teaches her children at home and in fact won't let them go into a room in which the sun is shining. Each child has a rare condition which can kill them if they are exposed to sunlight. Grace closes the curtains of each room as they move through, to protect them. Naturally, both Grace and the children become a little sick of being confined to the house. The perpetual fog outside does little to alleviate anyone's spirits. Grace and the children are also concerned about the whereabouts of the man of the family, Charles (Christopher Eccleston). He went off to fight in the war, but has not been heard from since, and the war has been over for at least a year. One day, three people show up on the doorstep to answer Grace's ad for domestic help. The previous three servants simply disappeared a week before. They are: Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flannagan), Lydia (Elaine Cassidy) and Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes). About the same time, Grace and the children begin hearing noises.
"The Others", written and directed by Alejandro Amenabar, is a haunted house film like they used to make, more similar to the original "The Haunting" or any other good horror film. The filmmaker relies on acting and storytelling to create an atmosphere of fright and horror, eschewing all CGI and gross-out tricks. How refreshing!
Nicole Kidman has now created two films in a row that any actor would like to be remembered for. In my eyes, this is a huge achievement. Previously, I couldn't stand her. Every role made her seem like an ice princess. Only "To Die For" showed any acting ability and even this role did nothing for her personality. Now with "Moulin Rouge" and "The Others", Kidman is showing both range and warmth, shattering previous conceptions of her. Both films show an actress with amazing ability.
Fionnula Flanagan, Elaine Cassidy and Eric Sykes are all very effective as the competent, but at times, mysterious help who arrive mysteriously. Their characters are most effective when they aren't revealing things to the audience. This was a mistake on Amenabar's part, as it reveals too much of their characters. It is always better to keep the audience in the dark for as long as possible.
Alakina Mann and James Bentley are especially effective as Grace's children. Never able to run and play, they seem perfect as they try to remain in their mother's good graces. As they talk of `mother's episodes', we don't know if they are simply telling tall tales or revealing something that we should really pay attention to.
The cinematography and set design help to create an atmosphere of confusion and dread. The fog surrounding the house serves to confine them further. As Grace fanatically moves from one room to the next, closing curtains, to shield the children from light, she herself creates an atmosphere of dread that we as the audience never seem to be able to escape.
A lot has been said of the `big twist' at the end. The less said about this, the better. Most reviews of this film compare the big twist to another very memorable big twist in another very memorable film. If you know what this previous twists is, you can pretty much figure out the twist in "The Others", which is too bad.
A lot has also been said about the film being too slow. I didn't find it slow at all. The suspense and tension build as we learn more about the story and the characters. I don't think it is necessary or relevant for every film to have quick or MTV-like editing. It wouldn't be appropriate to this story and I am thankful that they didn't use it here.
"The Others" is a chilling, frightening old-fashioned haunted house film. Great entertainment worth your money.