The Others (2001)
A Movie Review
I like horror films that make you think, films that have you dreading what’s to come and when it does, it turns out to be completely different than what you expected. Films like that are hard to come by. I give The Others high marks. That’s not to say it is without flaws and I’ll get to them but first I’ll discuss what I love about the film and bear with me because I am going to try to do it without any spoilers.
Nicole Kidman does a wonderful job as the lead character in this gothic tale of a widowed mother and her two children (who unfortunately suffer from a severe allergic reaction to sunlight) in a large home on an island off the coast of Britain. Being that isolated and alone, would drive a lot of women crazy, and a big old house is bound to make for some paranoia, especially if spending much of the time in the dark. The children, of course, have such great imaginations they add to the suspense of “is there something here with us?”
When the three strangers who seem to be answering an ad for help arrive. Things get even stranger. Kidman’s mother is both vulnerable and threatening at the same time, the children both love and fear her, her daughter challenges her and scoffs at her all the while the hired help behave suspiciously. Who is evil, who is doing what in that house?
We rarely get to see anything, either. The film takes a Lovecraftian approach with the idea that what we fear most is the unknown. Of course, we get hints and red herrings along the way that keep our heads spinning. Oh, it’s the hired help that are up to something…..No, wait, its Ann, the girl, is she possessed? There is something really creepy about their mother. Is that man really their long-lost father? Is he a ghost?
My absolute favorite creep out, and I will say this without guilt because I remember it being used in the previews, is when Ann is playing with a marionette while wearing her communion dress, her mother approaches to tell her to take it off and when the girl turns around, it’s not Ann but a creepy old woman! This is the first time we see anything that can’t be blamed on a character we know. And suddenly, we know something more than trickery is at play.
I don’t think anyone who watched this movie would not try to compare it to The Sixth Sense. I did and that’s where I found it wanting. The first time I saw The Sixth Sense, (maybe I was really naïve) I missed all the subtle clues and was shocked at the end. When I rewatch it, I am in awe of the way Shyamalan gave these brilliant hints away that you never even caught. Unfortunately, in The Others, the clues are almost thrust in our faces. “Ann told me what you did to her” and the old tombstone sticking out of the leaves. Much of the dialog was heavy with innuendos such that you could start guessing that someone in that house was not what/who they appeared to be. When the end came, I was like “yep, I figured, now just give the details of how exactly it happened and end it”.
Going back to The Sixth Sense for a minute, the other problem I had with The Others were all the loose ends and plot holes. When The Sixth Sense ends, everything makes sense, all the answers are so obvious. When The Others ended, I had questions—lots of them. Where were the servants before showing up at the house? Why weren’t there any others living there? Where did the husband come from and where did he go? I’d love to discuss Heaven and Hell and Purgatory but then I would even have more questions, like why the children are with their mother and not their father? Why is the mother allowed to stay in her house? The story itself is good, the brooding feel, the anticipatory fright is all there right along with the O’Henry twist at the end. But once I know that, there isn’t much going back and rewatching it that makes sense. Much like this review. I said I really liked this movie and ended my review by trashing it. So there, my ending doesn’t make sense either and therefore it’s a perfect place to end.