Directed by Alejandro Amenábar
(Nicole Kidman, Fionunula Flanagan, Christopher Eccleston, Elaine Cassidy)
The Others, from its first spookily awkward moments, begins an unrelenting quest to instill the deepest, most undeniably unbearable fear within the viewer. Created through a suspenseful buildup of anticipation, Director Alejandro Amenábar’s methodical brand of psychological terror will see to it that you thank the confines of your cozy theatre seat and continually remind yourself, “This is just a movie.”
Grace (Nicole Kidman) is a devout Christian, a stoic in her principles, unmoving in her values. The mother of two children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley), who suffer from a rare allergy to light, Grace raises them alone in an enormous, vault-like mansion on the isolated Isle of Jersey in the waning days of the second World War. Her husband is away in the war, and she has awakened one morning to find that her servants have vanished without a trace, while an unknown presence shares her home.
Kidman handles her role as Grace with a fluency that oils the slow, deliberate pace of the film. The horror displayed in Kidman’s wide, light-deprived eyes hones The Others’ mood to a distinctive “T.” The naïve but strong-willed Catholic-school girl in Kidman’s character poses a harsh hypocrisy that drenches the film’s religious themes with irony. The same robust faith that Grace places in the belief of the unseen God fails to allow her to believe in the unseen, unknown beings in her home.
While The Others is unquestionably going to be referred to as this year’s Sixth Sense for its abrupt, twisting finale, Amenábar takes a much more meticulous pride in the craftsmanship of fear, resulting in an individuality that sets it apart from other psychological thrillers. From the fog drenched mansion to the erratic (and almost senile) behavior of Grace, the story itself opens with questions upon questions, oddities and irregularities in the characters and settings that make everything seem so very out of place.
The Others is a film that stares back at you. Together with the lighting and cinematography of DP Javier Aguirresarobe, Amenábar’s images are living, breathing forces alive with the unknown. Large rooms and long hallways dance in low light. Shadows wander about the screen, shifting and gliding with eerie human-like qualities. Aguirresarobe’s camera hauntingly moves like an apparition, with erratic displays of both peace and panic.
Amenabar ultimately defines psychological terror by turning your mind into his greatest asset. The Others’ fright value doesn’t come from spooks jumping out at you. By sustaining the suspense that Amenábar creates through whispers, dark corners, open curtains, footsteps and the simplicity of uncertainty, The Others continually reminds you of the possibility that something lurks around every corner.
– Michael Goller
The Others opens today in theatres nationwide.