The Others (2001)Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and frightening moments.
Starring Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan, Christopher Eccleston, Eric Sykes, Elaine Cassidy.
Photo ©Miramax Films. All rights reserved.
Have You Seen This Movie?
This review is divided in to two parts.
This first part is for those people who have not seen The Others and are mainly looking for a synopsis and an opinion.
Everybody likes a good ghost story, and that's exactly what The Others is. Grace (Nicole Kidman) lives in a big and scary old mansion in 1945 England with her two children Anne and Nicholas. The children have a peculiar condition: too much exposure to light will cause them to break out in rashes, eventually killing them. Thus, Grace has a set of rules for the new housekeepers she is hiring. The curtains must be drawn in a room before the children are allowed to enter it, and the doors must be shut and locked at all times to prevent any stray light from entering any of the rooms. Grace and the head of the new housekeepers, Mrs. Bertha Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), each keep a set of keys to unlock and lock the doors as they traverse the house.
Eventually, though, it becomes evident that Anne (Alakina Mann) has been in contact with another being in the house. Thus the ghost story begins. It's genuinely creepy, and the atmosphere is well set. Those who fancy themselves enjoying a good spook will enjoy this movie. It's a story one can get into, evolving into a twisted mystery. Fans of this genre will not be disappointed.
Now here's part two of this review. It is for those people who have seen the movie. In case anyone doesn't get the hint, THIS MEANS THE MOVIE WILL BE SPOILED IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPHS. DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER UNTIL YOU'VE SEEN THE OTHERS.
This movie contains a lot of appeal, but it has its share of weaknesses. For most of the way through, it's quite enjoyably chilling, even though some things bugged me here and there. And then something happens that caused me to have a reaction I didn't expect. A twist ending occurs and I actually had a letdown because of it.
I find this reaction of mine odd because normally I love a good twist ending. This sort of ending had started becoming popular, it seems, in certain movies in the late '90's. At first, I ate it all up and became enamored with this device. I was truly able to enjoy most of these types of endings because I try very hard to go into a movie with as little knowledge of the movie as possible, and I usually succeed and am therefore genuinely surprised by the last minute sleight-of-hand. But here, with The Others, I finally got my first taste of feeling as if there is one twist ending too many in today's movies.
It doesn't help the case for The Others that the twist is far too similar to the twist in The Sixth Sense. In other words, yes, you've been watching a dead person/people this whole time. I think if The Sixth Sense hadn't existed, The Others would and could stand alone as a very strong ghost movie. Unfortunately, much more than a few people are going to make that comparison to M. Night Shyamalan's 1999 monster hit, and this will only weaken the impact that The Others tries to make with its audience.
The ending shouldn't make a movie, though, and it thankfully doesn't with The Others, but how much the rest of the movie succeeds may depend on the personal preference of how one likes to be scared. Unfortunately, I felt that this movie relied a little bit too much on tried-and-true gimmicks. Big house, thick fog, lots and lots of darkness, and a lady who thinks she's seeing/hearing things are words I could use to describe both this movie and last year's What Lies Beneath. It also uses rather standard musical cues (high-pitched violins, for instance) to heighten suspense, a device that tends to stick out to me. I think of other horror movies that have affected me, such as The Shining, The Exorcist, and Rosemary's Baby, and remember that these movies disturbed me with haunting music and imagery rather than cue up the violins to let me know when I should start feeling scared. There are a few moments in The Others, however, that do measure up to those standards well. I will now never forget the imagery of the photographs of dead people. That was truly haunting. More moments like that and this movie would've been a true winner to me.
I sound a bit down on The Others, but I actually did enjoy it because it was apparent to me that a lot of care went in to the production, and it is a good show to sit through in a nice dark theater. It has a touching story underneath the scares. One can easily empathize with the characters; I actually found myself sympathizing most with the secretive and confident housekeepers. It's a good movie, and it's just too bad that it finds itself following the footsteps of a certain successful 1999 ghost movie. Other thrills abound in the film, but that particular last thrill, for me, just isn't what it used to be.
©Jeffrey Chen, Sep. 8, 2001