Alejandro Amenï¿½bar's THE OTHERS is everything Jan DeBont's THE HAUNTING isn't: atmospheric, engrossing, and, most of all, scary. Whereas THE HAUNTING felt like an amusement park ride that you wanted desperately to end, THE OTHERS is a somber and dark tale, the kind children of yesteryear might have told in front of a campfire. Nicole Kidman stars as a woman who slowly begins to lose her grip on reality. Alakina Mann and James Bentley are her precocious children who are apparently allergic to bright light and must live in rooms lit with nothing more than a lantern's luminescence.
Like Peter Medak's THE CHANGELING and Jack Clayton's THE INNOCENTS, THE OTHERS does a superb job of reeling the audience into the world of these characters who inhabit a huge old house. The widescreen frame is suffused with gloomy images of a contorted tree set against a large mansion, bringing to mind Poe's ominous House of Usher. Little by little the director feeds us bits of information, which I tried desperately to pay close attention to despite the idiots behind me who could not go for several seconds without talking on their cells.
I don't know who Alakina Mann is, but she's brilliant. It's rare to see this sort of performance from a child, but Ms. Mann practically steals the movie from Ms. Kidman.
THE OTHERS will indubitably be compared to THE SIXTH SENSE and I must admit as I watched the film a second time, and wondered had it not been for that film, would THE OTHERS have even made it out of Microsoft Word? Despite being somewhat predictable, the movie does manage to chill. Audiences today, I believe, are jaded, and therefore it has become increasingly more difficult to scare people, but THE OTHERS does a fine job in its own right.
There are those who complain that the film is too slow. I did not find it slow at all. Then again, I watched Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING more than 25 times when I was 16, so you be the judge!
In today's glut of mindless film fare, THE OTHERS is a welcome relief. It's a movie of both style and substance, of things and ideas (sorry, couldn't resist)
A good companion piece to this film is Robert Mulligan's THE OTHER from 1972. Where are Chris and Maritn Udvarnoky now anyway?