July 17, 2012

The Others (2001)

"A woman who lives in a darkened old house with her two photosensitive children becomes convinced that her family home is haunted."

Did you know that "The Others" was a remake? I didn't either until I reviewed "Voices" and realised that not only was the title taken from the original stage play, but "The Others" was little more than a re-imagining of the main elements of the story itself.

Having said that, Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar's update of this classic ghost story with a twist is far better than the 1970s versions. Over a decade since I first saw "The Others" in the cinema, it's still as creepy and scary as it ever was.

For those of you who live under a rock and don't know, "The Others" had a really weird mixture of nationalities involved in it. Nicole Kidman is an Australian yet her character was supposed to be British, the story was set in Jersey but actually filmed in Spain, and the whole project was funded by American producers. I suppose stranger things have happened but, given the director and the rest of the cast, I always assumed that "The Others" was a joint Spanish and British production.

Just going through the cast list reveals quite a few well-known British names such as Fionnula Flanagan, Christopher Eccleston (who was the best Doctor Who before David Tennant took over), and even the late Eric Sykes. Eric Sykes, who died a couple of weeks ago, was best known for being a comedian especially in the '60s and '70s so the casting choice was a little bit odd. Having Elaine Cassidy (who went on to be Abby Mills in "Harper's Island") as a mute was even weirder though.

Of course, the best thing about "The Others" (apart from the one big jump scare which was ruined by the trailer) was Nicole Kidman. Apparently, she didn't want the role initially. I'm glad that she changed her mind because I couldn't imagine anyone else doing a better job. She was, by turns, harsh, strict, creepy, neurotic and vulnerable while always being quite beautiful and even sexy if you like long, passion-killing dresses and ugly, sensible shoes.

The supporting cast (since that was really all they were), even the somewhat annoying children with their horrible stage school accents, were all first class although the script didn't really allow any of them to stand out or upstage Nicole Kidman. "The Others" was all very controlled in favour of its star but that was no bad thing.

The cinematography was pretty fantastic too and, combined with the set dressing, "The Others" had a very distinctive look about it which was later copied by "Saint Ange" (2004), "The Orphanage" (2007) and many Asian horror movies. Basically, "The Others" was the first classic horror movie of the 21st century and has yet to be surpassed by any other ghost story.

As much as I would like to dissect every scene, it would absolutely ruin the film for you so I'll just recommend that you watch it for yourself instead. Even if you've already seen it, watch it again and compare it to the state of the genre today. "The Others" was and still is a masterpiece of atmosphere, mystery and suspense rather than gore for the sake of gore or deafening jump scares.

"The Others" was a beautifully crafted and truly "old school" horror.

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