The Others (2001), or Heathen Children

30 10 2009

Welcome back everyone, to today’s installment of AHHH! SCARY IMAGES AND LOUD NOISES MAKE ME LOSE CONTROL OF MY BOWELS! The Others is one of those films that I’m guilted for having not seen. I tell people I haven’t seen The Others, and, all of a sudden, it turns into “YOU haven’t seen THE OTHERS?!?! I thought you liked movies?”, and I am thusly shamed by the community I work and play in. Nevertheless, it seems that I was indeed missing out on an effective horror film that utilizes a mixture of different scare tactics to try and attack the viewer. It’s dark, rich, and stylistically textured. And while the acting did not impress me on many levels, it’s still a nice film to check out to get a case of the creeps this Halloween.

In a posh British mansion just after the Second World War, a prim mother of two named Grace struggles to raise her children alone. The two children, Nicholas and Anne, have a sensitivity to light, and this becomes quite problematic for her and stressful having to deal with it by herself. She hires a few people to help around the place, and this seems to be the ideal at first. But strange things begin to happen to her family after they arrive, things that one cannot easily explain away. Her daughter Anne claims to have seen people who don’t live in the house, and perhaps don’t live at all, with her odd descriptions of them. There are doors that close without anyone closing them, instruments can be heard clearly even when there is nobody playing them. It’s all very odd, and while the children seem to be at peace with this, it deeply disturbs Grace. She goes one day in a heavy fog to see an exorcist, leaving the children to be tended to by the odd servants. But they are not the ones in any peril, because in the deep, blinding fog outside the mansion, the questions run even deeper once she finds her husband wandering around, who was apparently killed in the war…

Spooky stuff. It’s a period piece set after the war, but the stuffiness of the house makes it feel much older. It’s the fact that all the drapes are pulled shut for the children, and even during the day, everything is lit by a hurricane lantern. The ambiance is suffocating, intoxicating, and yet unknowingly inviting, as if the spirits of the house beckon to the life within us as keepsakes of their former selves. The house itself is really a character, and really the most important character in The Others, because it is the prison, the window from which our protagonists look out of, and the others look into.

A great concept combined with a historical realism seldom present in horror makes for a gripping story. I really cared about all these characters, even the frigid beast of an actress Nicole Kidman evoked some inkling of emotion from me, narrowly evading the Least Wanted List today by actually doing a good job. She plays Grace, and although she had to grow on me, she eventually settled on my heart like dust on a long British mantle. It has a lot to do with director Alejandro Amenabar’s excellent handling of not only her character, but the world she lives in. I enjoy Grace because of what she is in the world Amenabar built; she’s a shadow in the midst of shadows. She is a dark woman in a dark house with dark thoughts in her mind. Her whispers are soft and thread-bare, her movements are slow and graceful like grand old drapery, and the life she has made in the secluded country estate is quiet but tinged with a vague anticipation. She really is, in many ways, tied to the house, as both an actress and a character.

Among the other things that set this film apart, I particularly enjoyed the score by Amenabar himself; it is incredibly fitting, and undeniably moving. Some of the tracks seem to blend in with the visuals as if it had transcended the senses. The set design is immaculate, with almost all the film taking place either in the creaky Victorian house or the surrounding murky forest. Wonderful setting for a scary movie. And Christopher Eccleston dazzles as the mysterious Charles, Grace’s husband who was thought to be dead. I won’t say too much about his character, but he does an excellent job in a role that could have easily been loopy.

There’s a lot to love with The Others. The source of fear here is the complete unknowable will of the others, and the impenetrable cowl that Grace casts over the dark world of the house. it blurs the lines of reality and even the lines between life and death, and it was done in a tasteful, almost delicate way that I can respect as a film connoisseur and a horror junkie. If you haven’t seen it yet, you HAVE to check it out once. I give The Others 9 1/2 light allergies out of 10. A high recommendation!

Keep both eyes peeled for my review of everyone’s favorite barn house thriller, The Messengers! Coming soon!

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2 responses

1 11 2009
Steven David

Cant wait for the messengers BOO!! Im glad Nicole narrowly escaped a terrible fate!!

1 11 2009
Jenni David

(comment above=ME)

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