The Others (2001) — A topsy-turvy ghost story

“Sometimes the world of the living gets mixed up with the world of the dead.”

Justin’s rating: I’d stay overnight here for a million dollars

Justin’s review: Before I talk about The Others, I want to speak to the concept of the movie twist. You know what I’m talking about — some huge, shocking, unexpected reveal toward the end of the movie that upends everything and that the audience might not have seen coming. Twists have been more common than they used to be, but I’m of the opinion that very few filmmakers can pull them off in the right way.

You see, the twist should be there for more than a “gotcha!” moment that wakes everyone up for the final credits. A good twist should logically have support for it and — this is most important — lend itself to a second viewing of the movie from a new and interesting perspective. So many twists fail at both of these. Thus, for instructional (and entertainment) purposes, I’d encourage filmmakers to study The Others, a ghost story from 2001 that’s grown in popularity in subsequent years because it pulled off a great twist that did the film credit rather than shame. And no, I’m not going to go into what the twist is.

I will say that our central heroine is Grace (Nicole Kidman), a possible widow who’s hired on some new help in her enormous British mansion at the end of World War II. Her instructions to the help — a housekeeper, gardener, and maid — serve as introductions to her odd living arrangements. Grace demands that all of the doors be locked after entering a room, the shades drawn, and silence reign as much as possible. As a kicker, there’s no electricity in the home, so it ends up being a gloomy place lit by candles and lanterns.

Grace tells the new help that this is all in service of her two children who have an extreme sensitivity to light that can hurt or even kill them. Presumably, they swell up like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man if hit by sunlight, and then start oozing with all sorts of colorful sores. She’s strict to the point of becoming a mother superior, only without the sense of humor. She’s far too intense and whispery for casual conversation, and clearly has some personal issues going on that extend beyond the children.

As the help get settled into this unusual living situation, Grace finds that her rigid environment comes under attack by… others. Strange noises, slamming doors, creepy voices, the whole shebang. In a house that looks like a haunted mansion 24/7, having the actual haunting come true is a little more than she can bear. So who are the others? What do they want? And how can this intolerable situation be resolved, especially since the omnipresent fog outside won’t let her get far from the homestead?

Instead of making you jump a lot, this film makes you WANT to jump a lot. You spend so much time while watching it wishing that the big scare would come already, just so that you’d have a proper excuse for the ever-widening stain on the front of your pants. But alas, you’re just going to have to settle for poor nerves as The Others winds up to an awe-inducing climax that’s less scary — but very fun in its own right — than the rest of the movie.

The Others is a softer horror movie with its PG-13 rating and a dedication more toward environment than gore and jump scares. But it’s one of the most beautiful you’ll see, what with its deep shadows, post-war interiors, and flickering candlelight. There are terrific themes woven in here concerning faith, control, regret, and personal horror. And like I said, the final act opens up a completely different perspective that makes a second viewing quite enjoyable in a new way.

I don’t want to oversell it, though. This is a well-made but simple ghost story that’s a one-trick pony at its core. I had a good time revisiting it well after a decade when I saw it first, and it most definitely holds up as one of the better early 2000s horror movies.

DnaError’s rating: Boo.

DnaError’s review: It’s no secret that I love horror. Well, if it was, it’s not anymore. I love being scared, creeped out, shocked and given all manners of the heebee jeebees. Recent horror flicks just don’t do it for me. Cause they almost all, without failure, disobey the simplest and more important rule of all good horror: what you can’t see is scarier then what you can.

Thankfully, writer/director Alejandro Amenábar’s (say that five times fast) The Others is a model of how to make a great ghost story. The story is about as archetypical as you can get. Big English house, nervous woman, a few kids and the undead.

The God-awful 1999 CGI-porn The Haunting used a similar idea. Yet The Others is more like the original 1956 The Haunting, a slow burn supernatural tale that pulls you down into it. Creeping and crawling, the movie layers its story and fright like a terrifying onion. I knew the movie was really working when all the normal annoying sounds of the theater crowd, munching, muttering, vanished in front of the brooding English manor.

Never dull or slow, for all it’s tense plotting and careful restricting, the movie keeps the terror coming at you. Small at first, but growing with every incident. The plot twists and turns, throwing you a curveball every now and again and keep you on your toes. The script is sharp and creative, mixing classic fright with new ideas.

The cast is excellent all around, Nicole Kidman’s Grace is a serve and austere woman, right down to her big buttons. The kids aren’t cutesy or cloying but act like realistic siblings. And Ms. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan) has a presence that is both warm and otherworldly.

Haunting, brooding, clever and definitely scary, The Others is an old story given a fresh look by a masterful hand.

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