Grace (Nicole Kidman) lives in semi-seclusion on a remote island with her two children, awaiting her husband's return from the war. Both children suffer from a rare form of photosensitivity which renders them open to harm from natural light. Thus the trio live in almost perpetual darkness within the house, according to a harsh but life-preserving set of rules that their mother has designed for them. When looking after the children by herself proves too much, Grace hires in some rather mysterious servants. Suddenly there seems to be more to the old house than Grace had previously sensed and a chilling descent into fear and paranoia begins.
A welcome throwback to the spooky traditions of Jack Clayton's The Innocents
and Robert Wise's The Haunting
, Alejandro Amenábar's The Others
favours atmosphere, sound, and suggestion over flashy special effects. Set in 1945 on a fog-enshrouded island off the British coast, the film begins with a scream as Grace (Nicole Kidman) awakens from some unspoken horror, perhaps arising from her religiously overprotective concern for her young children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley). The children are hypersensitive to light and have lived in a musty manor with curtains and shutters perpetually drawn. With Grace's husband (Christopher Eccleston) presumably lost at war, this ominous setting perfectly accommodates a sense of dreaded expectation, escalating when three strangers arrive in response to Grace's yet-unposted request for domestic help. Led by housekeeper Mrs Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), this mysterious trio is as closely tied to the house's history as Grace's family is--as are the past occupants seen posthumously in a long-forgotten photo album. With her justly acclaimed performance, Kidman maintains an emotional intensity that fuels the film's supernatural underpinnings. And while Amenábar's pacing is deliberately slow, it befits the tone of penetrating anxiety, leading to a twist that extends the story's reach from beyond the grave. Amenábar unveiled a similarly effective twist in his Spanish thriller Open Your Eyes
(remade by Cameron Crowe as Vanilla Sky
), but where that film drew debate, The Others
is finely crafted to provoke well-earned goose bumps and chills down the spine. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com