- Nicole Kidman as Grace
- Fionnula Flanagan as Mrs Bertha Mills
- Alakina Mann as Anne
- James Bentley as Nicholas
- Eric Sykes as Mr Tuttle
- Elaine Cassidy as Lydia
- Christopher Eccleston as Charles
A highly atmospheric psychological horror-thriller that gains its shocks from the slow building pace and expertly handled visuals, The Others is a haunting movie that is both intelligently and stylishly done. Be warned, you won’t be sitting comfortably after watching this or sleeping soundly either.
The setting is 1945 and the War has just finished. Grace lives in a gloomy isolated house on the isle of Jersey with her two children Anne and Nicholas. Her children are photosensitive and can’t be exposed to sunlight, which leaves the old mansion in a Gothic darkness most of the time with the curtains drawn and only a gaslight or candle to find one’s way. The devoutly Catholic Grace is highly strung and prone to nerves, waiting for her husband to return. She exercises a strict sense of motherhood on her young children and infuses them with strict values and morals of religion. Then, three servants arrive at the house to work, as the previous ones have disappeared. Mrs Bertha Mills is the new housekeeper and nanny, Mr Tuttle is the gardener and the mute Lydia is the maid around the old house. Around this time, strange and very odd events begin to occur within the house. The petulant Anne claims to have seen people in the house that no one else has seen. Grace hears whispers while looking around a junk room. She finds a Book of the Dead, that houses mourning portraits of the deceased. Grace initially dismisses her daughter’s claims of someone in the house, but as the events become more frequent and unusual, Grace is forced to acknowledge that there may be things in the house that she can’t explain away and maybe not of this world. The enigmatic Mrs Mills drops hints about what may be going on, but only young Anne listens to her. Now in a desperate fight to remain sane and protect her children, Grace must confront her fears that her house may be haunted and that there is something not at peace.
As writer and director, Alejandro Amenábar directs with confidence and deft skill, exposing elements of fear through use of sound and facial expressions as opposed to gore. Masterfully creepy contrasts between light and dark conjure up a Gothic atmosphere of encroaching dread and slow burning terror. When the film ventures outside of the mansion the sheer sock of seeing natural light is very unexpected and unnerving, as we’ve been plunged into this almost constant state of near darkness. Rather than having constant shocks, The Others gains momentum and chills through the build up and reveal. This makes the film very refreshing as it could have fell into cheap scares and gore, but instead focuses on character and the nature of fear in an adroit manner. The Others is a classic example of what we don’t see can be more frightening than what we do see. Showing he’s a jack of all trades, Alejandro Amenábar composes the score, that lends its haunting tones and grim sense of foreboding very well to this chiller. And that clever twist at the end will indeed leave your jaw dropping and your heart stopped. If you thought you had figured the film out, just wait for the final third to turn that on its head.
Nicole Kidman turns in a powerful performance as Grace. Embodying the shifts in emotion from smothering maternal love, stoicism, dismissal and ultimate terror, Kidman doesn’t miss a beat and her work is outstanding and gets to the heart of a really complex character finding her sanity being tested by strange and unnatural events. In fact, much of the horror in the picture and the palpable fear is generated through Kidman’s piercing blue eyes as Grace finds her sets of beliefs questioned as terror engulfs her. Fionnula Flanagan excels as the kindly but enigmatic housekeeper, who knows more than she is letting on. Alakina Mann and James Bentley as the terrified and isolated children are excellent in displaying fear and panic. Eric Sykes and Elaine Cassidy inhabit their parts as the other two servants very well, while Christopher Eccleston, despite only being seen briefly, is well cast as Grace’s long-lost husband.
Chilling, ambient and psychologically terrifying, The Others is an excellent addition to the psychological horror genre due to its style, confident direction and high calibre acting.