After the success of 'Open Your Eyes (Abre los ojos)', which would later be remade by Cameron Crowe and Tom Cruise as 'Vanilla Sky', writer-director-composer Alejandro Amenábar made his first English language film. Budgeted at $17 million and starring Nicole Kidman, 'The Others' debuted in August of 2001 to strong critical reviews, and became a worldwide success, grossing over $200 million. It's also the first English language film to ever be nominated for Goya Awards (Spanish Academy Awards). Nominations included Best Film, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sreenplay, Best Sound, Best Production Design, and Best Actress (for which Kidman won).
Set in the British isle of Jersey after World War II, the film is about Grace (Kidman), a mother trying to raise her two children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley), alone in an empty mansion because their father has not yet returned from the war. Grace's house staff just quit for reasons unknown, and the children have an incurable disease preventing them from encountering daylight. Special care and specific procedures must be taken to keep them safe. When three mysterious caretakers arrive to fill the open staff positions, more and more secrets are teased. Why did the old staff really leave? Was it because Grace has psychotic episodes? How did the new caretakers hear about the job opening when the notice to the paper was never delivered? Is Anne telling the truth about the little boy named Victor who only she can see? What happened to the home's previous owners? To talk about anything more would ruin the fun.
'The Others' is a slow burn. It introduces us to interesting characters and slowly piles on creepy questions. Bumps in the night. Doors unlocking and opening by themselves. Voices in the hallway. Simple devices to be sure, but these basic things resonate with the terrified child in us all. 'The Others' is an intelligent horror film because it doesn't rely on cheap, music-sting-jump-scares. It builds actual, foreboding tension using tone, character, sound design, and the film's overall look, designed by cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe ('The Road'), which is drenched with atmospheric fog and a muted color palette. In revisiting the film after a couple years, I had forgotten the chilling musical score, which is inspired by the classical horror films of Hollywood's yesteryears.
Amenábar's direction is specific and engaging; his camera floats to accentuate scene momentum and pacing. Nicole Kidman does a really nice job as an icy, possibly crazy, overbearing mother. Yet despite her character's flaws, you still empathize with her situation. You feel her loneliness, while at the same time of hoping she will more actively acknowledge her surroundings and the escalating events. Even better, though, are the children. Creepy kid movies live or die on casting, and here the two child stars are terrific. They're believable and real, and don't suffer from the overacting seen in the Disney or Nickelodeon camps of teen actor training.
'The Others' is a dark, atmospheric movie with glacial pacing compared to many modern horror movies… And that's exactly why it's so good. This movie still scares on repeat viewings and sucks you in with its colorless-yet-gorgeous, gothic environments. If you like horror, REAL horror, instead of cheap scares, then 'The Others' just might be you. Especially if you live in an older house prone to odd noises.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stat
Lionsgate, in charge of the Miramax catalog, brings 'The Others' to Blu-ray on a single BD50 housed in a blue eco-case. Popping this Region A locked disc into the player brings up twelve and a half minutes (!) of trailers including 'My Bloody Valentine 3D', 'SAW: The Final Chapter', 'The Last Exorcism', 'Abduction', an ad for the EPIX channel, 'Pyschoville', and something called Break.com (which appears to be YouTube for lazy people).
Sporting a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 MPEG-4 encode, 'The Others' debuts on Blu-ray looking better than ever. Framed in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (enhanced for 16x9 HDTVs), there's a lot to like about 'The Others'.
Resolution is abundant, allowing viewers to enjoy the atmosphere and the set design of the house. Contrast is near reference, despite the shadowy darkness in which the film often lives. Consider all the scenes lit by actual, or cinematographer-enhanced, candle light. Here, the blacks are deep and inky, but there's plenty of detail in the shadow and no hint of banding. Also, despite the film's muted and monotone color palette, skin tones remain even and natural.
On the flip side, the transfer's biggest problem is that the print and/or negative from which this HD Master was struck, appears dirty. It's not the end of the world, as the problem comes and goes (something that will be ignored by all but the pickiest viewers). This makes sense for a ten year old film, but a little more care should have been taken here. While there was no banding in the shadows, I did note minor banding and macro-blocking in the exterior fog-drenched sequences as well as in the new Miramax logo which precedes the film. There are also a couple of production errors to be seen, including an instance of shadowboxing 28 or so minutes into the film's running time.
Overall, 'The Others' has a strong Blu-ray debut despite the flaws. It remains authentic to its theatrical origins and easily bests the ten year old DVD in every way possible. I was surprised a film this dark could remain this bright and clear, and look forward to viewing it again soon.
'The Others' bangs, knocks, and whispers its way onto Blu-ray with a subtle, yet powerful English 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack.
First, let's talk about how quiet and delicate it can be, with little flourishes of voices calling and crying from somewhere in the house. There's also a fair amount of blowing wind and heavy breathing, all of which sparkle in full resolution. Each of the smaller moments make you sit up because you know things will eventually escalate. The dynamic range here is impressive as sound effects and director-composer Alejandro Amenábar's musical score add to the atmosphere in a perfect nod to the orchestral compositions of Bernard Herman ('Citizen Kane', 'Vertigo', 'North by Northwest', 'Psycho'). Imaging and directionality are superb, and the dialog is always audible (well, if the character is actually speaking in the same room as the camera). And LFE is use sparingly, though effectively in that it never full roars, but fully supports the soundscape.
'The Others' in lossless audio is a stunner. It’s as well paced and structured as the film itself -- starting slowly at first, teasing and scaring you, until finally swirling upwards into an aggressive, gothic symphony. This is what surround sound is all about!
'The Others' returns to home entertainment ten years after its initial release on DVD as a two disc special edition. Everything that was on Disc 2 of the DVD set is found here on the single disc Blu-ray. These special features were okay for the time, but are pretty sparse today.
'The Others' is a tense, gothic ghost story -- one of my personal favorite horror subgenres. It features terrific performances from Nicole Kidman and her child co-stars, atmospheric direction, and a powerful musical score. Revisiting it after a few years, it's easy to see why this modest little film grossed $200 million dollars worldwide in the late summer of 2001. What I find particularly fun is how the movie gets better with subsequent viewings. The Blu-ray features a topnotch audio presentation and a strong video transfer (despite a bit of dust), and fans of 'The Others' will really enjoy it. If you're new to 'The Others' and appreciate creepy, intelligent, emotional horror films, don't read any more about the film, check it out as soon as possible. Highly recommended.