When the calendar page turns to October, we Rejects have only one thought: horror. To celebrate this grandest and darkest of months, we’ll cover one excellent horror film a day for the entirety of the month. That’s 31 Days of Horror and 31 Films perfect for viewing on a dark, chilly, October night. If you, like us, love horror and Halloween, give us a Hell Yeah and keep coming every day this month for a new dose of adrenaline.
The Others begins with a scream when Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman)awakens from a nightmare. Grace and her children Anne and Nicholas live in isolation in a fog shrouded house on the Jersey Islands in 1945. She and the children had been living under German occupation, but even though the war has ended and the occupation is over life is still fraught with tension. The children are so photosensitive they will die if exposed to sunlight. The windows are shrouded in blackout curtains leaving them in darkness only relieved by candlelight or gas lamps. Grace’s husband Charles is missing in action and she’s on her own struggling to keep her children safe. Grace’s struggle to maintain an orderly life is disrupted by the arrival of three mysterious servants.
The secretive trio arrives out of nowhere, but good help is hard to find so Grace hires them, leading them from room to room, instructing them on how to keep the children away from sunlight.
It’s Anne who is aware of the others who have invaded the house. Grace doesn’t believe her until she too begins to sense their presence. Anne’s story about the others is more than a child’s fantasy. It’s the dead and the living clashing over the ownership of Grace’s house.
The movie is eerie and claustrophobic. The walls of the house are closing in on Grace. There’s no sense of day or night and the fog never lifts. Grace rushes to a crying child but neither Anne nor Nicolas are crying. Finally, Grace tells the servants they must search for the intruders. In a frantic scene Graces searches the house, shotgun in her arms, desperate to find the unseen enemy. Room after room is searched, curtains thrown open, letting in dangerous sunlight that not only can kill her children but illuminate the dark corners in Grace’s mind. There are terrible secrets waiting to be exposed. The fog isn’t only shrouding the house but there’s a fog over Grace’s memory as well.
There’s no onscreen murder or mayhem in The Others. It’s a slow buildup of things that go bump in the night and dead people who haven’t yet come to grips with their mortality. No blood or violence in this film, but the aftermath of a violent act taking place off screen.
Only the slightest bit when Charles returns home more ghost than man. Charles doesn’t seem to know where he is even though he recognizes his wife and children, he’s just not all there. So, not much more than a naked shoulder.
This is a psychological horror film where nothing ever is what it seems. The house, which is huge from the outside, feels small inside, curtains blocking the sunlight, no electricity, no telephone, an oppressive quiet hangs over every room. The servants go from strange to creepy to creepier. One particular scene where Grace hears Anne but sees a blind, old woman the size of her child, draped behind a first communion veil is definitely scary. But the movie is more eerie than terrifying.
The Others is a departure from bloody horror. Perhaps nothing is more terrifying than losing one’s mind and Grace appears to be on the verge of losing hers.
The gloomy mood is beautifully set by director Alejandro Amenábar who also wrote the screenplay. The fog threatens to consume the house and its occupants. This is a ghost story in the style of The Innocents where a terrible event has occurred but neither the audience or the characters know what it is until the end.
If you’re looking for a great ghost story The Others is what you’re looking for. It’s an intelligent film, a horror film, but a sophisticated one where the horror emerges from the mind of a woman stressed to her breaking point. Grace has been hanging on to her sanity under tremendous stress. The scream awakens her not only from a nightmare but into one. It will be a nightmare she can’t escape until she embraces the truth. The fog never lifts until Grace discovers who The Others really are.