Monday, August 29, 2011

Movie Time: The Others (2001)

Movie Time with Breakfastman: The Others (2001)

The Others (no relation to the 1974 French film of the same name, at least as far as I know) is a psychological/supernatural horror film in the vein of classic psychological/supernatural horror films like The Haunting or The Innocents, the later of which it borrows heavily from. I have seen The Innocents before and I quite liked it. It was a grand gothic horror, full of twists, ambiguity, psychological trauma, insanity and more. You know, fun for the whole family! Anyway, when I found out that there was a movie that borrows heavily both from the The Innocents and novella the film was based on (The Turn of the Screw, for all you lazy types), and that it was made recently (a psychological horror film that came out withing the last ten years, not based on a much better horror movie from Japan? Blasphemy!), I decided it was worthy of my time, so I added to the ol' Netflix queue. It came recently, so I decided to review it. Is it any good, or is it rubbish? Let's find out. This is The Others.

"Dangit Eloise, I am not going back to that island! Who would be stupid enough to do so after escaping it once already?"

The movie starts with our main character, Grace Stewart (played by Nicole Kidman), waking up from a nightmare. Next scene, we see 3 people, an old man, an old woman, and a young, mute woman, walking towards the house. They are greeted by Grace, saying that she is relieved they are here and that they responded so quickly. Apparently these 3 people are servants, who responded to an advertisement in the newspaper for work. Grace gives them the tour of the house. While giving them the tour, she gives them some rather unusual instructions: always keep all the doors closed behind them, no matter what. The reason for this unusual instructions is revealed a moment later: both of her two children are extremely allergic to light. Exposure would cause them to burst into hives and sores, which would eventually cause them to suffocate. The only light they can be exposed to is from oil lamps and fireplaces. After the servants are introduced to the children, they are confronted by Grace. She claims that the usually mailman comes once a week, but has not come this week, meaning that her advertisement has not been sent to the newspaper. She confronts them on why they are here, and they give her the extremely flimsy excuse that they used to work in this house (the older women says that it was "the best years of their lives"), and they occasionally stop by every now and again to offer their services to whoever lives in the house at the time. Grace finds this answer acceptable, and allows them to continue working for her.

 Ah, a creepy child. A must have for any Gothic story. You know what they say: can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

In the next scene, we see Grace homeschooling her kids. It turns out that Grace is a very religious women, and she is having her children study the Bible. After some fighting, she splits the children up and has each study alone. She leaves the room, but then hears the weeping of a child. She checks on one of the children, Nicholas, to find that he has not been crying. She then checks on Anne, her other child, who also insists that she has not been crying, but says that another boy who was in the room until a moment ago, Victor, was. Grace, confused because she only has two children, tells her daughter to stop lying. She insists that she is not, and points to a open door she claims Victor ran out through. Grace, still not believing her story, thinks the open door is the fault of one of the servants, and chastises them for it. More strange things start happening. Anne insists that Victor is opening the curtains in her brother and her shared room at night, and she also insists that at least for other people, a mother, a father, a son, and an old lady, are in the house with them. Grace starts hearing strange noises and finds a book containing photographs of dead people in the attic. Things proceed to get more and more creepy, with strange hallucinations and disappearing objects plaguing the household, until the grand final twist (because there always is a final twist in these sorts of films) is revealed.

Well, the TARDIS is broken again, Rose. Looks like we are back in 40's England. God, I hope we won't have to deal with that "Empty Child" thing again. That was creepy.

The film builds up a great atmosphere for itself. The children's allergy to light means that most of the scenes will be in the dark, filled with shadows, regardless of the time of day, which helps builds the feeling of dread. The house is sufficiently big and creepy enough to get your imagination going, and the sets are all wonderfully designed and help sell the goings on. It feels like every creepy Victorian mansion ever, but in a movie like this, that is not a bad thing. You never see any of the ghosts (or whatever they are, for it is implied in multiple scenes that they might not be ghosts at all), and when you do, it leaves questions in your mind on whether or not it was all in the characters head. Is Grace just hallucinating and going mad? Does Anne have multiple personalities? Is this all just a simple misunderstanding, or is it something more sinister? If someone is insane, who exactly is it that needs to be drug away by the lads in white? Questions like that also help to add to the air of uncertainty about the entire proceedings and give the movie it's own unique flavor.

                                                                             Sarah Palin, circa 1945.

 Unfortunately, the film is not without it's problems. The writing, for instance, is definitely not as strong as it could have been and is probably the films biggest problem. There is an entire plot thread centering around the return of the husband that does nothing but destroy the pacing of the movie for a while. It is entirely useless to the main plot, reveals nothing about the characters or plot that we didn't already know, goes nowhere, and just generally does nothing but eat up time. The film would have been much without it. There are other useless scenes, like the servants talking in a menacing tone about what to do about the family. It destroys the tension that had been building in my mind on whether or not the entire thing was just simply insanity or a series of hallucinations, and again, harms the pacing and goes nowhere. These scenes were not needed, and don't even make much sense once the final twist comes around and we understand the characters motives much more than we did at the start. The film also has a pretty significant plot hole due to an event from the middle of the film. The scene in question was very good and quite creepy, yes, but makes absolutely no sense once the final twist comes along and we understand what is going on.

          The Doctor's Ninth regeneration did not go so well. Still better than the Sixth Regeneration though.

The film is solid in all other areas. All the actors put in good to great performances. Even the child actors, who are often a spotty proposition, no matter what movie they are in, put in believable performances, which is an achievement in and of itself. The film is well shot, with some great cinematography (even if it is sometimes blindingly obvious that these are sets and not actual places that are being filmed). The sets themselves are all well made and believable, and the sound effects all sound right. There is rarely any music, but when there is, it sounds fine. I don't remember any of it, but I don't remember want to rip my eardrums out because of it, so that is a bonus.

                                                        The request for a raise did not go as well as planned.


The Others is a solid psychological horror film with a great twist. It does have some rough writing in spots, but don't let the deter you, this is a perfectly fine film. If you like psychological horror of ghost stories, give this one a look-see. Not the deepest or best written film ever, but enjoyable nonetheless, and it is certainly refreshing to see a horror movie released in the last 10 years that is not a remake of something better, a sequel, a slasher, or a torture porn.

-Breakfastman out.

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