For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.
When it comes to the supernatural in film, I adore the subtle magic of hair raising done right, and mood over excess. You don’t need special effects to heighten a picture, or to rely on jump scares to make a lasting impression. What’s unseen, unknown, and most importantly- felt before spotted- can ultimately be the most terrifying thing.
I saw The Others when I was a teenager, in a local (very tiny) theater, and I remember leaving with a wonderful sense of eerie calm. My horror needs were satiated.
In 1945, Grace (Nicole Kidman) and her children Nicholas (James Bentley) and Anne (Alakina Mann) live alone in a large manor. Her husband (Christopher Eccleston) hasn’t returned from the war, and the home aches with a lonesome isolation. The children, who suffer from a dangerous photosensitivity, are forced to remain inside, out of the light. The curtains must be kept closed, and each door locked behind them. When strange things start happening, it seems perhaps apparitions are behind it.
From the very start things feel strange, dank and off putting, and it’s clear that something very dreadful is going on. The Others utilizes the dark, making you wonder what’s around each corner, under each table, behind each door. That, my friends, is successful suspense. The curiosity that drives the fear is part of what makes it so palpable.
At times it has the ambiance of a campfire ghost story, and can almost feel the heat from the fire and the general unease of the audience as we listen, watch, and hold our breath waiting for the unveiling finish.
Director Alejandro Amenábar expertly conveys his intentions, leaving you uneasy and appreciative of all the fine details that go into capturing the vibe that The Others does so well. It’s elegance and creepiness tied into one.
Hauntingly effective, in near poetic fashion, it really embraces the singular locale in a way that makes the home a living breathing character of its own. The production and sound design is fantastic, further enforced by the amazing use of a star like Nicole Kidman at the helm, in a truly vulnerable performance, and the lovely cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe.
There are some scenes that I feel could be truncated, but the visuals and performances are so enveloping that its easy to get lost in the atmosphere created. From the fog that wraps the grounds or the servants that seem to know much more than they are letting on, the subtleties lure the viewer in, using suspense and mood to see The Others through.
The Others is a haunting story done right, both in the supernatural and the psychological sense. Kidman‘s face, often frozen in terror, says it all. A ghostly delight.