good movie. It scores well at IMDb (tied for the 5th best of 2001 so
far), and got 76% good reviews, but plenty of good films with good
reviews die instantly at the box office, especially when they are arty
and slow. The Others has surprised a lot of people with its solid
mass-market appeal. It is a ghost story, but it is not sensational,
has no gore, has almost no special effects, is basically a gothic
psychological horror story in 1940's period costumes, is imbued with
religious symbolism, and is paced oh-so-slowly.
The second half of the movie has
plenty of creepy ghost-story atmosphere and a good payoff, but
enjoying those pleasures will require you to stay awake through the
first half, and that ain't going to be easy.
The set-up phase includes some creepy
details. Nicole Kidman and two little kids live in an old manor house
(gothic architecture, no less!), and Kidman certainly has some unusual
rules for the servants. Apparently, the children can be poisoned by
the sun, so all the drapes must be closed at all times. Furthermore,
there is a mysterious rule that no door may be opened unless the
previous one is closed. Frankly, nobody can quite figure out that one.
Even Kidman has a hard time explaining the logic behind it. Then there
are the three mysterious servants who appeared out of nowhere, as if
summoned. Of course, the central mystery is why they keep having some
kind of contact with some special people who seem to share the house
with them. A blind woman, a boy, some others. Kidman and the kids see
them for a minute here, a minute there, and eventually suspect they
are ghosts. That's the mystery.
The first half has all too many
scenes with Kidman instructing the children on their catechism,
discussions of hell and purgatory and limbo, and preparation for first
communion. Kidman is devoutly religious, and the presence of the
mysterious spirits challenges some of her theology.