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"The Others" is an psychological/supernatural horror film released in 2001 by Dimension Films, directed by Alejandro Amenábar and inspired by the book about a ghost story of the late 1800s "Turn of the Screw" by Henry James. The film is about an hour and 45 minutes long and is given a guidance rating of a 12 because of a few frightening scenes. It is rated 7.7 out of 10 on IMDb. "The Others" is one of my favourite supernatural mystery/thriller. This is bbecause the film is clever, suspenseful most of the way through and contains a brilliant twist that is difficult to see coming at any part of the film - even when you reach the scene before the twist, it never feels expected and I think that makes "The Others" ONE of the best horror films out there!
"The Others" is about a small family of single mother Grace (Nicole Kidman) and her two children Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley). They live in a remote and incredibly big and dark Victorian mansion in Jersey. Grace needs some house helpers - the previous just disappeared. When one day she has three strangers who call on her door and says they are looking for work, she hires them on the spot as replacement servants of the previous. But the more comfortable the servants get with the house, Grace feels their behaviour seems to be getting stranger - and why would we blame her? - There seem totally weird! When Grace learns that her children can hear voices, which she later hears too, the story takes a completely new turn in the most spectacular but shocking direction to make way for the conclusion at the end.
The "others" refers to the company present in the house. It is what the children believe are the ghosts that they see and hear and call them the Others.
What to expect from the film
* The beginning: The film starts like a sweet little story. Grace, who teaches her children at home starts of the film as if she is about to tell a tale to her children (we hear just her voice); she explains to the children that the story happened millions of years ago but was over in seven days - a biblical tale...about how God created life. It definitely sets the tone for the type of character the lead is - religious and very simple. We are shown illustrations over opening credits that look as though they could have been pulled out of a very old children's storybook - but some are actually pretty creepy pictures, if it was that they are from a children's book. Some of these drawing feature later on as scenes within the film, like the children wandering around the house, to the "door-locking", the nanny, and lots of candles around the house. All of this is over some very sombred-up Disney-like music (just so it feels very child-friendly I suppose, to go with the story-telling) but it feels very eerie. Finally we are shown an illustration of the house in which this family live - you can see the immense scale of it, it does look like a very traditional building and looks like the type of places ghosts may love to live in. It's a perfect horror movie house. And once the illustrations are over, it cuts into the first scene which is of Grace screaming - it is just really bizarre. Overall, a really great start, which sets the mood and introduces characteristics.
* The characters: The main cast of the film is small and consist basically of the mother, and her two children and the three servants. This film develops into a great story just based on the actions of these characters, and other things happening around the house that the characters deal with. As soon the strangers turn up on the door, we see them as a pretty normal group of humble workers. The three servants consist of old lady who is the nanny called Mrs Bertha Mills, a gardener who is an old man named Mr Tuttle and a girl named Lydia who is a mute. The old woman seems nice enough, but all is not as expected. Nicole Kidman's performance as Grace is excellent and is the large part of where the strength of the film is based. Her English accent is perfect and proper and her personality as an over-protective mother along with her strict policies, principles and teachings on religion to her kids and servants seems to work to give the viewers the idea that she maybe a little bit on the insecure side of things. As Grace shows the servants around the house, she tells them of the "rules" involved when walking around the house. Since there many rooms, each with two doors, one of her rules is to make sure to lock (with the huge bunch of keys) the door they entered through before leaving through the other door - it does sound unusual. We are then introduced to Grace's children. The scene in which they are brought into the film, we didn't really know what to make of them before we get to see them because it felt like a big anticipated build up - so it gets you thinking is there something really odd and spooky about them? Either way their performances in the film were really fantastic. Everyone in the film is just so mysterious and peculiar and this does help with making us feel a little uncomfortable during most parts of the film. We get to know the characters as much as we really need to, and an important thing about horror films is that if you actually begin to care about the welfare of the characters, then you know the film is really good. There is nothing too menacing about the goings-on in story or anything that could potentially harm the characters, but we do later start to actually care about their situation and this affects how much we enjoy the story.
* The horror: The horror within the film is very subtle and really not over-whelming. Sometimes something delicately presented works better than something thrown at us. The horror in the film in turn just goes to make whatever is given to us, feel increasingly cold, tense and chilling. There is no gore or blood or any other kind of frantic scare tactic to help the film along with the horror and the awfulness of the situation. Even if this film is essentially a haunted house story, there is nothing that feels put on in the form of over-used shocks or something likes ghosts floating around the top of the staircase in the night - that is just too cliché for this film. The horror in the film is very mature and grown-up; every detail is given to us sensitively and is perfectly captured throughout - we feel the emotion for the characters that feel this terror. The terror that we do receive though is more psychological and intelligently deceiving - even if nothing is happening at that time, we still remain on the edge of our seats building up the panic. And overall it's really a matter of what you see is what you get; so basically if you were actually there in that house, you will see and feel exactly what the actors are feeling which makes the whole story and the horrors of the film come to life for the viewer. The scene that ends the film or reveals the twist is what this entire film is working its way towards - so if some find the film "dull", if you wait until the end, the reward is immense, and additionally really heartbreaking and will send shivers down your spine. "The Others" is presented in ways that differ to most other horror films - it IS different to all others and that is what makes it such a great film to watch and be horrified with.
* Special effects: The special effects in "The Others" is nicely limited. Whatever we see is really what you would effectively see in "reality", if you like. It just doesn't need those extra things going on in the film as it would have just felt completely unnecessary. People who think the use of special effects, especially computer generated effects, destroy horror films and make it feel unrealistic and unlikely in every way, you would love this film. I have to admit, I am not totally against the use of special effects in certain films whether CGI or just lots of make-up, as I think in occasion it helps some films with the imaginative build up and the presentation of the story - but it only suits certain "silly" or "fun" film. If you think effects ruins film for you with its unrealistic detail and huge budgets (sometimes understandably), this one will be a delight. Come to think of it, I could imagine this film could have taken a whole new route and introduced lots of different effects, especially computer generated, to increase the shock, like unambiguous ghosts for example - but the producers have nicely kept this film simple. And I think this is what makes the film so beautiful as there is nothing to allow the stunning setting of the film to be put second best. The only few scenes of special effects that you will find, involve things like the thick fog outdoors when Grace leaves the house, the scene at the end of the film which reveals the twist, and one other little scare in the film when the girl becomes possessed, but you will know it when you see it! Overall I think this film just goes to show that you don't need huge budgets to show off dubious special effects, if films like this can turn something so basic into something completely enchanting.
* Theme/ Atmosphere: Although this film could be criticised for being very slow-paced, the truth is, it really is not. And it's not just because I don't agree with that view that it is slow, it is just that there is a reason for the film being at the pace that it is. It emphases the dark, shady and mysterious past, and how could that be presented in a pace other than steady and cautious. The other thing is, there is actually a lot of detail about the story being revealed within those spaces which may feel slow. The story is pretty much a drama - there is no action or fast-paced activities during any part of the film and since the film is supposed to be set in the mid 1940s, we couldn't deal with the liveliness anyway. The film was produced in the early 2000's, so how it actually feels as though it is filmed in the 1940s or 50s is incredible in itself - and so it makes it feel not just convincing visually and atmospherically, but feels as though us viewers are not insulted by making us believe things which look utterly unrealistic! Anyway, back to the story, the whole point is to go with it and be patient about it but always pay attention. And for those who appreciate this, it will in turn give you back a charming, elegant but painfully grim and sinister feel about it. The majority of the scenes are filmed in the dark - the dark rooms with closed curtains, the dark mist outside, the graveyards and basically scenes during the night time and once again this only goes to help work up the murky, haunting and macabre tone it tries to achieve. It feels really gothic and all aspects you would expect of classic horror are touched on here visually and atmospherically - from the creaky floorboard in the creepy house, to doors that slam and close shut on their own accord, noises coming from upstairs, the mysterious grand piano playing, candlelit rooms - they all fit right in, and allows us to focus on the story more comfortably. The scenes along with the story are really stylish, really appealing but you feel the coldness around - the house itself feels cold! The more I watched this film, the more I was absorbed by the entire environment which kind of takes you away into that intimidating ghost house.
* Audio: There is not much sound or music through the film but whatever we do get is kept balanced and effectively too because it just really goes to enhance any terror within the film. When we don't get the eerie silence and the "echoey" feel of the isolation within the interior of the house, we get musical sounds that feel traditional Hitchcock-styled, with plenty of menacing chords, flutes and violins which at times really get your skin crawling - and even though it is quite light most of the time, it really feels very harsh at other times. There is also an even more intense accumulation of tones during more severe scenes of the film which always gets us at the edge of our seats, but it never feels over done at any point. I think this build-up is important to this film, because with the subtlety of visual horror, there should be something else in the film to boost the fear, and the sounds are clearly that additional element. Throughout the film we basically get the same sort of thing throughout, and I think that is all we really need to feel any of the tension and nothing more fancy seems to be required. Other things that we and the characters get to hear and so experience the same fear are things like mysterious children crying and whispering from unknown places (and not one of Grace's children), running footsteps again from unknown places and of course the piano playing during one of the scenes - I think any piano in a horror film feels very spooky! Overall I would say the audio in the film - whether it is the music in the background or the general sounds of the set - all seems just right to accompany the visuals we are getting and does actually help create or develop the amount of horror we are going to feel as a result of it.
* The ending: The ending is what we have all been waiting for since the twist is revealed. There are elements of shock and surprise in it, because overall I really just though it was so fascinating how everything fell into place. The ending is genuinely sad, I thought anyway - I really felt for the family and there was something so realistic about it - the situation felt realistic, the acting felt realistic and the possibilities felt realistic (in a horror film sort of way...). It was as if it makes so much sense for things to turn out like they did in the film. In most films, once the twist is revealed, it's like, that was great twist, and that's it! "The Others" sort of takes it further and makes you think back to all the other puzzling things that happened previously in the story. On the whole it is this fantastic ending to a film that should really keep you holding on. This is ONE of the finest and smartest twists I have seen in any horror film, and I have seen lots! All I can say is it was beautiful. And once the final scene is over, the film closes with nothing more fancy to offer us other than the closing of the gates to the house and the closing of the film, with final credits over some more grim music. Sooo perfect!
Overall, "The Others" is the type of film which is a treat not only to horror movie fans but everyone else too. The amount of horror in the film is stylishly and intelligently mild in order to heighten the final few scenes and this makes it really entertaining and exciting right until the end. The only real downside is, that this is not the type of film you could watch over and over again unfortunately. I have actually seen this film twice - once was when the twist was new to me, and the second time I watched a long time later - I knew the twist, but it was interesting to know it and see it in a different light and to see how certain scenes that previously seemed unimportant, suddenly stand out as important to the conclusion. It is a very memorable film, and one that you probably would never forget since it is so captivating, and this just means that if you have already watched it, you probably would not want to watch it again. Either way, the film is powerful and so I don't think that will make the film any less thrilling - the chills will always remain no matter how many times you decide to watch the film! If you haven't seen "The Others", I think you might be missing out! It is almost a classic.
RELEASED: 2001, Cert.12
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 102 mins
DIRECTOR/SCREENPLAY/MUSIC: Alejandro Amenabar
PRODUCERS: Fernando Bovaira, Jose Luis Cuerda & Sunmin Park
Nicole Kidman as Grace
Alakina Mann as Anne
James Bentley as Nicholas
Fionnula Flanagan as Mrs Mills
Elaine Cassidy as Lydia
Eric Sykes as Mr Tuttle
Christopher Eccleston as Charles
FILM ONLY REVIEW
The film is set in Jersey just a little while after the end of World War II, and Grace lives with her two children, Nicholas and Anne, in a huge, old house isolated in the countryside. Grace's husband hasn't returned from fighting in the war, and he is missing, presumed dead.
Three people turn up at the house, apparently offering themselves up as servants. After giving them the once-over, Grace decides to let them stay and work for her. Lydia is a young mute girl who seems nervous and scared, Mrs Mills is a wise-seeming elderly Irish lady and Mr Tuttle is an elderly grey-haired man. Also, the trio appears to know one another. Grace instructs Lydia and Mrs Mills to help her around the house, and informs Mr Tuttle that he will be in charge of gardening duties. The three new servants are given strict instructions to make sure all rooms are kept in darkness with curtains drawn and only weak oil lamps for illumination, as Nicholas and Anne have an illness which causes them to be hypersensitive to light - over-exposure to light could kill them.
After a while, strange things start to happen. Anne appears to be seeing people who aren't there, and Grace feels that aside from herself, the children and the servants, they are not alone in the house.
Although the storyline for The Others is set in Jersey, the filming location and the huge house is apparently in Spain. All of the dialogue is spoken in English, but the writer/director and producers appear to be of Latin origin, and as far as I'm concerned, that definitely adds a different touch to this quite spooky story and the way the film is put together....somehow it has a different, somewhat more compelling atmosphere than most American or British movies of this genre.
The scene is set very well and right away, exudes an air of chilling mystery as Grace, the mother who does love her children but is very strict and religious, coldly barks out orders to her new staff....Lydia the mute girl, Mrs Mills the kindly-seeming Irish lady and Mr Tuttle the new gardener.
All of the acting from the whole main cast is very good, particularly that of Nicole Kidman...she manages to exude a clipped, curt, sometimes almost icy persona, which is sprinkled with something softer on the rare occasions that she expresses affection towards her children. I also loved the acting from Alakina Mann and James Bentley as Anne and Nicholas respectively, each one managing to excellent and very appropriate facial expressions in accordance with whatever was going on in the film at any given moment.
I also loved the kindly Mirs Mills played by Fionnula Flanagan....a watchful, gently spoken lady with a lovely soft Irish brogue, and I was drawn to the fact that right from her first appearance in the film, it's a guessing game as to whether she's a caring, mumsy type or whether there could be something sinister lurking underneath her wise and homely veneer.
The Others is quite a creepy film, pretty much all the way through....not from a sword-brandishing maniac on the loose aspect, but chilling and deliciously scary here and there from the point of view of things that go bump not just at night but in the daytime too, and the feeling of there being an unseen presence. However, is this unseen presence merely a figment of Grace's and Anne's imaginations, or is there something lurking in the shadows of the old dark house? Why can't Lydia speak, and how is it that Mr Tuttle and Mrs Mills don't need to be shown around as they already know the house layout?
The film score is very appropriate, made up of fairly quiet, slightly avant-garde orchestral music which serves to enhance the creepier moments of the film very appropriately.
There are a few points in The Others where I did feel quite spooked, and I jumped almost out of my skin a couple of times. I do actually find films of this nature create greater levels of unease within me than slasher-type horror productions, as it's all about things unseen that can't be confronted head on.
The Others is more of a classic, old-fashioned type ghost story which is very refreshing to watch as there is no blood, no gore, no axes, scissors, scalpels or any other flesh-slaying implements used at all.....plus, almost at the end of the film, there is a very interesting twist which I certainly didn't see coming. However, I did feel a little let down by the absolute ending...I have no idea what I would have liked as an alternative, but how it stands didn't exactly complement the whole build-up somehow.
I'd also like to have seen more of Christopher Eccleston's character Charles, as I felt his role could have been weaved more intricately into the storyline, but the little we do see of him is superbly well-acted.
All in all, I very much recommend The Others, and feel certain that it would appeal to lovers of spooky films which are done in traditional style and that concentrate on character building and a decent storyline rather than going way overboard with bloodlust and sensationalism. This is a very professionally put together, sleek production that is well-acted and gripping throughout....don't watch it just before going to bed though if you are of an easily creeped-out disposition!
At the time of writing, The Others can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £4.58 to £13.97
Used: only one copy currently available @ £8.58
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~