The Others (Blu-ray)
You wouldn’t know it today, but there was a time when the best scary movies were terrifying because of what you DIDN’T see. Imagine waking up in the dead of night, thinking you just heard something. You get out of bed and walk to the hallway… all of the lights are off. No one awake. Suddenly you hear something that makes the hair on your neck stand up, so quiet you’re not even sure you heard it. Just the house settling, you say. Something shifts in the periphery of your vision, black on black. When you look you don’t see anything. Just the wind, you tell yourself. The blinds on the window move slightly. You look, but the windows are closed. The tension in this moment is at the heart of great scary movies.
That said, THE OTHERS is a movie struggling for definition. At once a period piece, a ghost story, a morality tale, and a thriller; the movie plays with the conventions of all of these genres. Genre blending of this kind can easily turn into confusion (and ruin a movie), but here they blend as an orchestra with each part blending beautifully to create a taut psychological thriller from a different time..
It’s hard to believe that THE OTHERS came out when star Nicole Kidman (MOULIN ROUGE, THE HOURS) was better known for her relationship with Tom Cruise (now dissolved) than for her acting ability (which then blossomed). Director Alejandro Amenábar (OPEN YOUR EYES) culls a great, intimate portrait of a family on the edge while incorporating tricks from classic thrillers and horror films. This is impressive without even taking into account the great performances of his two child actors and his impressive (and intimate) cast.
THE OTHERS is the story of Grace (Kidman), a woman living in a large estate with her two children, Nicholas and Anne. When the movie opens she awakens from a dream, screaming and crying. A nightmare? A hint to something deeper? As she gets up and moves around the estate, we notice other small irregularities: every time she comes to a door she unlocks it with a key, opens it and enters the room, and closes and relocks it behind her. The house is dark, there does not appear to be electricity and all of the curtains are drawn. And then there is a knock at the door. Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan) introduces herself, Lydia (Elaine Cassidy), and Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes). She hires them immediately, as her prior help has disappeared (they left one night out of the blue) and shows them around the home.
As she takes them on a tour explaining her rules, we learn that Grace runs the home with a strict, religious slant that is both reminiscent of a different time and totally identifiable. She explains that each time a door is opened the other must be closed and locked. This counts for all rooms in the house. The curtains are to be drawn in all rooms at all times, ensuring a dark atmosphere. When Mrs. Mills asks about this, we learn the reason; Nicholas and Anne (James Bentley and Alakina Mann, respectively) suffer from a disease akin to an allergy to light. If the children are exposed to sunlight they could die.
All of these little details set the stage for our story, and the audience is drawn in immediately. The children allude to their mother ‘going mad’, there are strange sounds coming from all corners of the house, the children start to see a little boy named Victor who is constantly crying and never quite in view; in short Grace slowly begins to believe the house is haunted. The tension slowly grows throughout the film until you feel as strung-out as Grace looks. What is really happening in this house? What did the children mean when they said that she went mad? And why do Mrs. Mills and Mr. Tuttle seem to know more about the situation than they’re letting on? THE OTHERS will take you on a ride while answering all of these questions, and you won’t regret it.
Video: (1080p, 1.85:1 Widescreen) The picture looks great and enhancing the mood. You feel like you are locked in the room with the family as the hauntings are occurring.
Audio: (English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio) The sound is really well done, from the creeping sounds of the house to the children’s voices to the score; the film is expertly mixed to heighten the tension without ever calling attention to the incredible work being done.
A Look Inside “The Others” (21:56) A standard definition “making of” featurette, cribbed from the DVD. This is a standard feature in the DVD and Blu-ray era but it would have been nice if they’d enhanced the video quality.
Visual Effects Piece (04:29) An extremely technical feature that shows how they created the dark atmosphere in the finished film. Call me old school but I think it is far more impressive to see special effects you didn’t even realize were happening before your eyes.
Xeroderma Pigmentosum: What Is It? The Story of a Family Dealing with the Disease (08:57) A short featurette about X.P., the seeming allergy to sunlight which affects the children in the movie. While this is a disease that affects very few people, it is poorly understood and extremely debilitating.
An Intimate Look At Director Alejandro Amenábar (08:14) This was his first film with child actors, first time working with an English language script. Again, this is an impressive job. Watching him interact with the cast shows just how clear a vision he had for the film.
The Theatrical Trailer is also included on the disc.