Living a solitary existence on the island of Jersey, Grace and her two children, Anne and Nicholas, spend their days inside their house which has to be kept dark because of the children’s severe sensitivity to light. Taking on three new staff to help around the house and gardens, the family begin to experience strange occurrences, bumps in unused rooms; a piano playing by itself and Anne talks to a boy called Victor who no-one else has seen. Grace holds onto her firm belief in God but descends into an increasingly fragile mental state. She struggles to ignore what is happening around her and realises that she must protect her family from a seemingly malicious supernatural force.
The Others (2001) – Director: Alejandro Amenábar
Running Length: 101 mins
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Fionnula Flanagan
Gothic horror is a rarity in these days of teen slashers, gratuitous torture, demonic possession as well as vampires and werewolves so to find a good old-fashioned ghost story makes a refreshing change. ‘The Others’ immediately puts you at unease by being set in an isolated house that is almost constantly engulfed by fog. Having to live in almost constant darkness would take its toll on anyone but with protagonist Grace, who is struggling to cope with the combination of the loss of her husband, the illness which has the potential to kill her children and the loneliness he suffers, the slightest thing on top would inevitably push her over the edge.
The score of the movie and oppressive darkness quickly creates a sense of foreboding, there is something not quite right about the house and some of the characters but its impossible to put your finger on exactly what that is. When strange things start to happen, your nerves are already frayed and, because a lot of the fear is felt by the children, the scares are intensified due to everyone’s inner child-like fear of the paranormal; things that go bump in the night are genuinely to be feared in ‘The Others’.
Much like Daniel Radcliffe’s ‘The Woman in Black’, ‘The Others’ demonstrates an ability to scare without violence and relies on our innate fear of the unknown to have us hiding behind the sofa. This skill is something that many similar movies struggle with but director Amenábar expertly balances each aspect to create a subtle horror movie that packs a punch.
IS ‘THE OTHERS’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
Mother, Grace, is a devout Catholic which she instills in her children, Nicholas and Anne. At one point, she teaches both kids about what happens to children who lie – they go to ‘Children’s Limbo’ which Nicholas recognises to be ‘one of the four hells’. Grace tells them that children who go to this place are ‘damned forever’ and the endure ‘pain forever’.
Grace hears a child crying. She runs to both children (who are in separate rooms) but they are both fine. Anne claims that it was a boy called ‘Victor’ who was crying although no-one has seen this child except for her. Later in the movie, Grace hears the piano being played, as she turns the door handle to enter the room, the music immediately stops and there is no-one else in the room.
Nicholas and Anne sleep in the same bed and Nicholas becomes distressed when he sees that the curtains have been opened (which could kill both of them), he accuses Anne of doing this, playing a trick on him but she adamantly denies doing it, saying that Victor did it. She tells Victor to come out and, after a few tense seconds, Nicholas hides under the covers. The shadow of a child is then seen running near the window and a boy’s voice is heard which is mildly threatening.
Grace finds a book of old, Victorian photographs; she is told that this is a ‘book of the dead’, relating to a custom that Victorians had of taking photographs of dead bodies. Many of these photographs include families, young children and babies; some have their eyes closed and others have had their eyes opened to make them look like they are still alive, although there is something very unsettling about them.
Grace walks into a room which Anne is in, she is playing with a marionette but has her back to the door. As Grace approaches her, she sees that her hand is wrinkled and when she looks at her face, it is no longer Anne but an old woman, when she speaks, it is Anne’s voice who doesn’t understand why her mother is so distressed.
A woman walks alone in the grounds of a large house; a fog descends, quickly engulfing her so that she cannot see anything around her. She suddenly sees the outline of a man walking towards her in silhouette. She becomes afraid and the man continues to approach her, this is very intense for around ten seconds, especially as just before this, other characters have spoken about the fog as if it has a mind of its own.
There are lots of other moments that are bound to produce lots of scares, however to list them all would give too much away and spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it before. What we have described above should give a good indication of what the movie is like and therefore parents should be able to know if it’s appropriate for their kids.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
Spooky and sometimes downright terrifying, ‘The Others’ has a fantastically unnerving atmosphere from start to finish, putting you at the edge of your seat from start to finish. Due to this movie being very much aimed at an adult audience, the scares are not child-friendly, therefore we feel this movie is not appropriate for kids aged under twelve.
- Violence: 1/5 (a character becomes physically aggressive with another character, grabbing them by the shoulders and shaking them, a character threatens to shoot others)
- Emotional Distress: 2/5 (a woman struggles to cope since her husband has gone missing, presumed dead in a war, her children often ask about him, being upset that he is gone)
- Fear Factor: 4/5 (a woman stands in a room, fearfully looking for an intruder; she is unaware of a pair of eyes looking at her from behind)
- Sexual Content: 2/5 (a man and woman kiss passionately in bed, it is clear that they have become intimate but nothing graphic is shown.
- Bad Language: 1/5 (some mild language and name calling)
- Dialogue: 1/5 (a child questions and pokes fun at a bible verse)
- Other Notes: Deals with themes of Christianity, depression, the afterlife, trusting what you understand of the world, grief, suspicion of others, isolation and coping as a single parent.
Words by Laura Record