“I’m telling you, that image of her careening around clutching the shotgun and rosary was priceless!” – Kim, By Hook or By Book
I was really excited to re-watch this film for Halloween. It was an excellent suggestion Kim! I first saw it in the cinema and it certainly creeped me out a lot. To be honest I’m not sure why I left it so long for a re-watch, it’s actually a really good film. It has a decent story, ending and genuine ‘hide behind the pillow’ moments. And no blood or gore – proof that a film can be chilling and tense without splats, guts and blunt instruments. I enjoy those kinds of films too (twisted freak!) but it’s certainly the supernatural movies that play on my mind and usually make more impact.
The Others is set just after the Second World War and Nicole Kidman stars as Grace, a highly strung woman who lives in a large, isolated house with her two photosensitive children Anne and Nicholas. Being photosensitive means any sunlight could seriously hurt the two children and sadly they are never allowed to leave the house – which is always locked and shrouded in darkness. With Grace being strict, highly religious and at times rather bad tempered this does not make for the happiest of homes.
Her husband is still stationed somewhere in the aftermath of the war and after the mysterious disappearance of their staff Grace is desperate for help – even if she can’t admit it. Strained, depressed and obsessed with Catholic dogma, the poor woman does seem a little unhinged. And with the unplanned arrival of three new servants and Grace’s daughter Anne claiming to see ‘strange people’ walking around their house at night – things start to get even worse. How excellent for us!
So what are the best things about the movie? Well it’s creepy, atmospheric, extremely chilling and tense. The acting is terrific – Kidman is great as the manic Grace who I simultaneously disliked and empathised with. She even managed moments of unintentional hilarity whilst running around with a very large shotgun – sorry but I always giggle at that! The two child actors were very good too and notably believable as siblings. In fact everyone in the film played their part very well.
It’s also not tacky at all, like some ghost films can be. You know the ones brought out around Halloween time, just to cash in? Some are entertaining enough but they’re still pretty forgettable. But The Others has an old school feel with no rubbish CGI, cheap shot scares or silly and convenient plot lines. It’s a film that has a real story as well as being creepy – an actual mystery. I have read since writing this review that the director (who also wrote the screenplay) adapted the story from the book ‘The Turn of the Screw’ which makes sense and whilst the stories aren’t identical, they share the same atmosphere and psychological questions.
The ending may divide some viewers. Whilst containing a fantastic twist that is coherent and marginally sensible it does change the dynamics of the story somewhat and perhaps makes it less exciting? I’m not sure. I like the ending but I just have a feeling not everyone will. Something must be said for the director though – Alejandro Amenabar. Not only did he direct the movie and write the screenplay, he also wrote the score! Remarkable really isn’t it, especially considering this was fairly early on in his career.
All in all I would highly recommend this movie, especially for Halloween. It’s one to watch by yourself with the curtains closed – if you dare (cue evil laughter). It’s a fantastic spooky ghost story, an absolute classic. And whilst of course it’s not perfect, it’s still one of the stronger modern efforts I can think of and certainly better than some recent offerings.