THE OTHERS (2001)
Starring Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan, Christopher Eccleston, Elaine Cassidy, Eric Sykes, Alakina Mann, James Bentley and Renée Asherson.
Screenplay by Alejandro Amenabar.
Directed by Alejandro Amenabar.
Distributed by Dimension Films. 104 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Ghost stories seemed to be pretty much over (dead, you might say…) a couple of years ago, but they have made one hell of an impressive comeback. There have been good ones (The Sixth Sense, Stir of Echoes), okay ones (The Haunting) and just plain bad ones (The House on Haunted Hill, Thirteen Ghosts.) It is interesting that in a time so full of so many hyper-realistic and awful horrors, the subtle drawing room dread of haunts can still reach us so deeply.
The Others is even more old-fashioned than even most haunting films. It has a studied formality and moves at a stately pace, and yet it is much scarier than most films with more obvious thrills. Nicole Kidman is perfect as a tightly wound woman living with her two sickly children in an old castle in the waning days of World War II. She has not heard from her husband since he went off to war and has come to realize that she probably won’t again. The children’s illnesses… if they are exposed to direct light their skin will blister and they could potentially die… doesn’t seem too realistic medically, but it gives the movie an eerie, closed-off feeling, with all the curtains drawn and doors closed.
Three houseworkers, an apparently middle-aged woman, a gruff older man and a younger woman who is a deaf/mute, appear one day to help Kidman in the keeping of the house. They are mostly friendly but seem somehow mysterious.
Suddenly, the children are hearing strange noises, which Kidman denies until she can no longer ignore them herself. Unlike so many ghost stories, you really do not get to see the haunts; you just experience their effect in unraveling the inhabitants of the house.
The trick ending about the spirits is one hell of a grabber… though just a tiny bit reminiscent of The Sixth Sense… yet still it is impressively chilling. What more do you need from a haunted house movie? (9/01)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2001 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 10, 2001.