What people will forget to tell you is that there's more than 90 minutes of an OK horror movie to watch before a glorious 10 minutes. Take away the ending--which ties the script's agnostic themes together too perfectly--and you get The Haunting, just with superior acting and production values.
The latest horrorfest brings us to the British Isles of 1945, where the repressed, icy Grace, played by Nicole Kidman (Note: Tom Cruise served as an executive producer on the film), cares for her kids Ann and Nicholas (Alakina Mann and James Bentley) in a colossal house, where things are in turmoil. Grace has been told that her husband (Christopher Eccleston), who's fighting in World War II, is missing and unlikely to return. The house's staff has simply vanished. And to top it all off, Ann repeatedly sees visions of another family who she says used to live in the house.
Ann tries to explain what she sees to her dubious mother, who drums Christian doctrine into her children's heads and has an impatient streak. At first, Grace doubts her daughter. But when doors fly open and unknown screams are unleashed, Grace strives (unsuccessfully) to gain control of the situation. Meanwhile, the new housekeeping staff led by the friendly Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), acts peculiar. Mrs. Mills tells Ann that she has seen the same visions, and that their presence will lead to some changes in the house.
The movie is propelled by a few highlights, most notably its look. The house is devoid of natural light (the kids are allergic to it), which gives the movie a continually creepy feel. Fog swirls in and out, creating a dreamlike environment. Throughout the movie, Kidman dresses in long, uncomfortable dresses, which scream her repression and cool demeanor. The kids talk in sing-songy English accents, giving the false impression that everything is fine.
The one nuisance is director/screenwriter/composer Alejandro Amenábar's pacing. Amenábar (directing his first English language feature) spends so much time establishing mood and religious symbolism that the movie simmers, instead of boils. There are very few chills until the finale. However, the ending still falls a bit flat because it's so much livelier than the material before it.
Writing this review, I'm reminded of when I first saw The Blair Witch Project two years ago. I loved the idea, but I left the theater feeling a little disappointed. It just wasn't scary enough. I feel the same way about The Others. The film geek inside of me is satisfied, but the Scaredy Cat in me isn't.
The Others DVD is an impressive two-disc set that will make your surround sound system worth the amount you invested in it. The film's sound design is of course the star, with creaks and screams coming from every corner of your living room. Disc two features a number of interesting extras, including a documentary about the skin disease the kids suffer from in the film, a production documentary, and more behind-the-scenes footage.
She sees dead people?
Run time: 104 mins
In Theaters: Friday 10th August 2001
Box Office USA: $96.1M
Box Office Worldwide: $209.9M
Distributed by: Miramax Films
Production compaines: Cruise/Wagner Productions, Las Producciones del Escorpión S.L., Sociedad General de Cine (SOGECINE) S.A., Dimension Films
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 123 Rotten: 25
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
Director: Alejandro Amenábar
Screenwriter: Alejandro Amenábar
Starring: Nicole Kidman as Grace Stewart, Christopher Eccleston as Charles Stewart, Alakina Mann as Anne Stewart, James Bentley as Nicholas Stewart, Eric Sykes as Mr. Edmund Tuttle, Elaine Cassidy as Lydia, Renée Asherson as Old Lady, Keith Allen as Mr. Marlish, Michelle Fairley as Mrs. Marlish, Alexander Vince as Victor Marlish, Gordon Reid as Assistant, Ricardo López as Second Assistant, Fionnula Flanagan as Mrs. Bertha Mills