THE OTHERS (2001) 

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Nicole Kidman
Fionnula Flanagan
Alakina Mann
James Bentley
Elaine Cassidy
Eric Sykes
Renee Asherson
Christopher Eccleston




Time: 114 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Suspense/Mystery

I have to say that though the trailers intrigued me, the only reason I went to see this little thriller was because of the word-of-mouth. Tired of all the empty, boring blockbusters, I wanted to see a film that relied more on mood and story, than explosions and pretty faces. I also happen to be a big fan of Ms. Kidman. The roles she chooses are never dull and are always different from anything else she's played. This is no exception. More a suspense drama than an all-out horror flick, THE OTHERS is an old-fashioned tale, full of tension and creepiness. You never quite now what's truly going on. Until the very end when a number of supposedly big shocks are revealed. I liked the way they were done, but the truth was no surprise to me. The film was going for a SIXTH SENSE kind of reveal, but the story is just not complicated enough to pull it off. Whether you figure out the payoff or not, it's still surprisingly exciting. This is all familiar territory; however, the acting and cinematography breathe new life into this dusty tale.

There's just nothing like a supposedly haunted house to get the chills running up and down my spine. Most people are the same way for the good reason that we are horrified at the thought of it happening to us. I always wonder why the new owners just don't leave and start over somewhere less populated with invisible demons. In this case, Nicole Kidman plays Grace, a young mother waiting with her two children for the return of her husband from the war. She suffers from loneliness and migraines, though that's nothing compared to the children. Anne (Mann) and Nicholas (Bentley) are photo-sensitive to light, forced to live in relative darkness without ever seeing daylight or suffer the painful, and perhaps deadly, consequences. It's no wonder their mother is more than a little jumpy. She's also quite religious, putting her trust in God that everything will turn out right. The children aren't so sure. Something happened between them and their mother that makes them especially cautious with her. Things seem to be looking up when 3 new servants arrive – Mrs. Mills (Flanagan) the housekeeper, Mr. Tuttle (Sikes) the gardner and Lydia (Cassidy) a serving girl.

It seems they used to work at the house years ago. Grace is a little skeptical, but she needs the help and they seem harmless enough. Her one condition is that they keep the doors and curtains closed to protect the children from any daylight. It appears to be an easy request to accommodate, but strange things begin to happen. Grace hears voices and doors are opened without being closed. She initially blames the servants, but it soon becomes clear that another force is inside the house. Anne tries to explain that she's seen these other people in the house, but Grace refuses to listen to that kind of talk. There's nothing in the bible about ghosts and Anne knows better than to scare her younger brother with spooky tales of the undead. A search of the house from top to bottom reveals nothing. The return of her husband Charles (Eccleston) temporarily puts an end to the speculation, but he doesn't stay long and things quickly come to a head. With the childrens' lives at stake, Grace becomes insanely protective. She can no longer deny the fact that something is out to get them. Their final contact with the intruders changes their world forever.

"Death of a loved one can lead people to do the strangest things."

Though this film has only one location, oh what a location it is. Constantly changing with the varying degrees of light, the old Victorian mansion is the perfect place for a ghost story. Long hallways, dark corners and millions of rooms for the little beasts to hide. The constant darkness is almost suffocating because you never know what's hiding there. The moments of daylight are drunk in like a cold glass of water on a hot day. However, as the film progresses even the light holds terrible secrets. Much like what worked in the thriller WHAT LIES BENEATH, the truly scary moments are the ones with the smallest chills – a door closing on its' own, a young boy's crying, a blinding fog. This film relies on natural occurances to create it's scary moments. I didn't jump out of my seat at all, but that's because I was glued to the screen. I am always constantly amazed at what filmmaker's can do with only one location.

If you're not a fan of Ms. Kidman, you might want to skip this movie. THE OTHERS is her show from gloomy start to stupendous finish. She is both quietly restrained and slightly mad the entire time. You're never quite sure exactly what this rigid, yet devoted mother is going to do next. She is just trying to get through every day to the best of her abilities. Though her children love her, they also know that she's loony, making them old before their time. Mann and Bentley give amazing performances for young kids. There's more going on behind their eyes than most adult actors. Bentley's fear mirrors our own. He's petrified to discover the truth, but is not about to let his sister call him a coward. He also wants his mother to protect him, as do we. It's obvious there's something going on in that house, but as long as Kidman is fighting and denying it, there's a certain calm about the frightening noose tightening with ever breath. Flanagan and Sikes also do a commendable job as the secretive servants. One is never quite sure if they're there to protect the family or harm them. Their behavior helps keep the truth at bay and the ending more thrilling. Eccleston doesn't have much to do here except act sad and soulful, which isn't hard to pull off for someone with a face like his.

Like I said, the ending isn't a major surprise, at least for seasoned moviegoers, but the way they reveal it is brilliant and breathtaking. There's a great style to this picture in the lighting and camera movements that elevate it above the typical supernatural thriller. THE OTHERS has it's share of plot holes – events that don't make sense once the secret is revealed – but the film is so well told, it really doesn't matter. Some may find the pacing a bit slow, but for me it was like pulling a stray string on an old sweater – a slow unravelling that pulls everything apart and eventually uncovers something mind blowing underneath. If you only get scared by bogeymen slaughtering high schoolers with chain saws, then you will be sorely disappointed in this movie. It has its creepy moments, but it relies on intelligence and emotions rather than buckets of blood to get its' point across.

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