Posted: Monday, August 20, 2001

There will no doubt be quite a few people who go to the movies and see The Others on the marquee and think, "Now, which one was that?" or "Wasn't that on NBC last season?" Indeed, many people have never heard of this movie because it has had a very limited ad campaign. It's almost like it was a small independent film that is suddenly getting wide exposure. Go see it. It doesn't matter whether you know anything about it or not, go see it. But take someone with you. Someone to grab onto.

Nicole Kidman plays Grace, although for most of the film she is referred to as simply "Missus" or "Mum." Grace is a war widow living in a cavernous house in rural England just after World War II. She is a severe woman with a fragile state of mind. Her husband is missing in action, the servants have recently vanished, and her children have a rare allergy to light that requires the house to be kept in perpetual darkness. To top it off, Anne, the daughter, has begun seeing other people in the house; ghosts, perhaps, an idea that goes against Grace's strict religious beliefs. And then one day, in answer to an advertisement, a mysterious trio arrives at the door looking for employment. That's really all I can say about the plot without giving things away. Reminiscent of The Sixth Sense, this is one of those movies that you want your friends to walk into having no idea what they are in for.

The Others is beautifully filmed, giving this ghost story a quiet, chilling effect that other, larger films are unable to achieve. The interior scenes, often pitch black, and punctuated with soft pools of light that never seem to stretch all the way to the corners, never fully reveal what might be hiding in them. The exterior scenes are shot in a perpetual fog, again failing to expose what might be hiding just out of reach. This film is quiet. The residents of the house speak in near whispers, which makes the scares, when they come, all the more shocking. This is a movie that prides itself on it's economical use of special effects, loud noises, or cheap thrills. It depends on a compelling story, wonderful acting, and strong direction, instead of a huge budget; a lesson behemoths like the newer version of The Haunting would have done well to learn. That movie had a few scary moments, but mostly I was just frightened at how much I had spent to get in.

Nicole Kidman is proving to be much more than just a big name. Her flashy, over the top performance in Moulin Rouge is nothing at all like the subdued, fragile woman she plays here, and yet she is able to make them equally believable. Her star power can do nothing but help the marketability of a small film like this, but it's her skill as an actress that keeps the story afloat. Her much less well known fellow cast members also do remarkably well. Fionna Flanagan stands out as the enigmatic Mrs. Mills, the head housekeeper and nanny with a secret agenda. Best of all, however, are the two light starved children, Anne and Nicholas, who you aren't sure whether you're frightened for or of.

This scary movie resonates so well compared to the other choices we are given. Of late we have been forced to sit through swill like Valentine or any number of other slasher flicks that try to pawn themselves off as the next Scream. Movies like those are low rent and no class, where The Others is anything but. Those films plod you along from one grisly, yet somehow boring death to another, and then expect you to be scared when the villain jumps out at you during the "thrilling" climax. The Others holds it's big scary moments close to the vest, but keeps you frightened from beginning to end. I suppose I shouldn't suggest that those movies are in the same category, because they aren't. Films like The Others, The Sixth Sense, and The Gift (severely underrated, now available on video, very cool, go rent it) are in a class to themselves, and it's a shame there aren't more of them out there. The Others suggests rather than shows, whispers rather than shouts, and then, when you least expect it, knocks you right out of your seat. Grade: A

The Others is rated PG-13 for very scary scenes, though there is no language, sex or violence.

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