Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Others (2001): Fresh as a newly dug grave

In a lukewarm summer movie season dominated by lesser remakes of classic films (Planet of the Apes) and lesser sequels to movies that weren't that good in the first place (everything with a numeral in the title), The Others brings a welcome chill to the bijou. The title is already familiar. In singular form, it was the name of a Thomas Tryon best seller which was also the basis for a popular movie almost 30 summers ago. But if some of its parts seem to have been transplanted from other movies, the resulting whole is as fresh as a newly dug grave.

Set in the closing days of WWII, it takes place in a Victorian mansion where the lovely but stern Grace (Nicole Kidman) waits for her husband to return from the battlefield while caring for her two children, Anne and Nicholas (Alakina Mann and James Bentley). Both children are acutely sensitive to sunlight and must be kept indoors during the day. An elderly couple and their mute companion soon join the household after answering an ad seeking domestic help, but though they're a genial pair, their sudden appearance is suspect since they're responding to an ad that was never placed.

Bumps are heard in the night before their arrival. Anne insists she's been conversing and playing with a boy named Victor. The mysterious lad is one of several "intruders" whose presence is felt but never seen. Are Victor and his companions a figment of Anne's imagination or representative of something more sinister?

Such spooky stuff needs just the right mood and atmosphere to be effective, and writer/director Alejandro Amenabar gives us doors that open and close unexpectedly, fog that grows thicker and more oppressive with each footstep, and, eeriest of all, a "book of the dead" that is certain to give you the creeps. It's all executed with taste and style (if you're looking for gore, look elsewhere) with Javier Aguirresarbe's cinematography giving it all a dark autumnal look that brings to mind the season of Halloween.

As for those parts transplanted from other movies, the seasoned spook show aficionado may be reminded at times of The Innocents, The Haunting (the 1963 version), The Changeling, Don't Look Now, and The Sixth Sense. But Dr. Frankenstein didn't start entirely from scratch either. Taking a body from here, and a brain from there, he sewed it all together and had something new. The Others borrows its parts from quality sources and stitches them together seamlessly and superbly.

Brian W. Fairbanks

Originally published at Paris Woman Journal

© 2001 Brian W. Fairbanks


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