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The Others

  the others
Something supernatural rudely interrupts Nicole Kidman's "craft time."

© 2001, Dimension
All Rights Reserved

Grace (Nicole Kidman) has been raising her two kids alone in an isolated mansion deep in the heart of the English countryside. One foggy day, three servants show up unannounced to offer help to Grace with the house and the children. With the arrival of these mysterious strangers comes shocking revelations that the children have been seeing ghosts in their rooms. At first, Grace, a stubborn skeptic involving anything supernatural, disbelieves her children's visions. Soon enough, Grace becomes an eyewitness to the terror and must struggle to discover why the ghosts want her and the kids to evacuate the manor immediately.

"The Others" (IMDb listing) is a haunted house picture in the best sense of the term. A moody, severely restrained thriller, the easy argument would be to compare this period chiller to the 1999 blockbuster "The Sixth Sense," as both share snail-like pacing and ultra-twisting "Twilight Zone" type conclusions. They also both deal with supernatural elements that don't result in garish computer generated images.

The similarities end pretty much there as "The Others" is a very detailed motion picture interested more in execution than the final plot twist. It's carefully layered and exquisitely decorated, but as many luxurious films already have shown, attention to detail doesn't always equal entertainment value. "The Others" is one slow film. Almost too comatose for its own good. The thrills in the piece do not arrive in a rapid fire delivery, but more once every 30 minutes to keep the audience intrigued. Or in my case, awake. It's a rare picture that so carefully structures itself without selling out, and I respect "The Others" for being so considerate. Still, in the end, the picture is sorely lacking energy and a haunting power.

Directed by Spanish wonderkid Alejandro Amenabar (who also scores the film), "The Others" marks the first English-language picture from the celebrated 29-year-old director. His previous film, the virtual reality braintickler "Open Your Eyes," was an international smash (soon to be "Vanilla Sky," a remake from Cameron Crowe and Tom Cruise due this Christmas) and announced the director as a master of the complex narrative. "The Others" follows similar suit, however I wasn't a huge fan of "Open Your Eyes" due to the corrosive effect the twists had on the overall texture of the film. In "The Others," Amenabar weaves a winding tale of horror and mindbending storytelling, yet the film never bursts out of its tight corset like I wanted it to. Amenabar avoids most "Dolby" scares and gore, yet in keeping the picture respectable, he forgets to implement the needed fun and adventure that haunted house films require. Once the spooky conclusion does come, it feels more like a studio mandated order than Amenabar's true instincts.

What Amenabar does get right is bringing Nicole Kidman on board. Proving herself one of this summer's most desirable assets (her turn in Baz Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge" was a career best), Kidman unveils yet another slice of her rainbow of talents as the cold and unforgiving Grace. A tough character to humanize for any actress, Kidman dives headfirst into the role with barbaric authority and pitch-perfect character detail. I doubt any of Kidman's peers would've been as willing as she is to make their character as strict and frigid as Kidman does. Her bravery is what keeps "The Others"—at times—riveting.

In a smart move that helps the tension grow, "The Others" might very well be the first film that could justify being set almost entirely in the dark. Grace's children are photo-sensitive, meaning that if they are exposed to sunlight, they would break out into hives and likely die. Grace, obviously opposed to this outcome, keeps the curtains drawn and all the doors locked to prevent accidents from happening. This leaves most of the picture dark and spooky, creating the anxiety that other films of this genre would kill for. It's a neat plot device that adds much needed unease as the ghosts toy with Grace's obsession with keeping the light out. In a motion picture as dry as this one, a little more ingenuity like the aforementioned plot device could've gone a long way to making the "The Others" a much more enjoyable ride.

Filmfodder Grade: C+

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