Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A to Z - The Others

I appear to be continuing the horror theme from yesterday's Nosferatu, moving on to a much later horror film from 2001, The Others. Directed by Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar and starring Nicole Kidman, The Others is an old-fashioned ghost story set in an isolated house in Jersey in the years after the Second World War. Kidman plays Grace, a widow with two children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley). The children are photosensitive and they dwell in a perpetual twilight as they contain the darkness within the house. After the previous servants leave, Grace manages to hire three more, who know a lot more than they're telling after strange disturbances begin in the house. Grace can't decide if her children are playing tricks, or if the house is haunted, or if she's going mad. Which is it to be?

I absolutely love this film. I'm refusing to say much more about the plot because I don't want to spoil it, but it's one of the few genuinely chilling films of the last fifteen years or so. Ghost films don't seem to be privvy to the same cycles of popularity that affect other horror films, and they often crop up in ones or twos before disappearing for a few more months. I think 1999 was the last 'big' year for ghosts, with The Sixth Sense, the godawful remake of The Haunting and Stir of Echoes being the biggest names on release, so The Others had a couple of years for paranormal fever to die down.

One of the real draws of the film is its setting. Jersey is trying to reestablish its routine following the Nazi occupation in much the same way that Grace is trying to adjust to life without her husband, presumed killed in action. The costumes are gorgeous, and the constant mist outside the house helps add to the air of enclosure, and entrapment, generated throughout the film. Grace's insistence that one door must always be closed before the next is opened to ensure that no light leaks into the rooms where her children are turns the house into a strange space full of shadows and secrets. Disembodied piano playing becomes threatening, and Grace pursues the intruders with a shotgun.

It's perhaps her relationship with her children that really make the film. Child actors can be a mixed bag, but Mann and Bentley are perfect as Anne and Nicholas, hitting the right balance between sibling bickering and protectiveness to make them plausible as brother and sister. Anne's somewhat strained relationship with Grace reaches breaking point when Grace thinks Anne has been possessed by an old woman, and Nicholas becomes torn between Anne's insistence that something is wrong, and Grace's assurances that everything is fine. This is a family on the brink.

It's a wonderful film, with a delightfully creepy atmosphere, and I highly recommend it if you like things that go bump in the night...

5 comments:

Helen said...

I loved this movie - I have my own personal copy, that's how much I loved it. The setting was so atmospheric and the punch a real surprise. I'm so glad you included this in your selection of movies.

Katherine Hajer said...

I loved this film! This A-Z series is going to leaf to a lot of film-watching and rewatching for me.

Tony Noland said...

Another one to add to the TBW list!

Icy Sedgwick said...

It's actually in my PhD thesis as well. I'm so glad people have either enjoyed the films, or they want to check them out!

Beverly Fox said...

I thought that this was one of those films that, once you see it, it's not scary anymore. Because of its big twist at the end, I thought it fell into the same category as The Sixth Sense. But then the other day it came on TV and I sat down to watch, for just a few minutes. It gripped me right in and at the end I was left thinking "how the heck did that happen?" It's because, as you accurately point out, it's just a damned good movie.

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