The Others is a 2001 psychological horror film by the Spanish-Chilean director Alejandro Amenábar, starring Nicole Kidman. It is inspired partly by the novella The Turn of the Screw. The Others takes all the traditional ingredients you’d expect to find in a horror film: the imposing isolated mansion perpetually shrouded in fog; mysterious noises; creepy servants, it even has the classic self-playing piano, and yet despite this it still manages to come up with enough original twists to keep you on the edge of your seat and occasionally scare you out of it.
While the recent spate of teen horror flicks have sacrificed substance for shock in an effort to provide more door bangs for its buck, The Others relies on patience to earn its gasps. The story-line is carried well by Nicole Kidman who has always brought an air of cold detachment to her roles, a characteristic that’s not always endearing, but one that serves her well here as the highly strung and foreboding Grace.
Grace, the mother of Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicolas (James Bentley) on whom she imposes a strict religious upbringing, has been confined to her remote Jersey estate in the Channel Islands while her husband has been away for 18 months fighting in the World War II. The already eerie house is lent more atmosphere by the fact there’s no electricity and the curtains are continually drawn in order not to expose the children, who suffer from a photosensitive disorder, to the possible fatal effects of sunlight.
Although set in 1945, both the look and feel belong more to the 19th century, a mood enhanced when three austere strangers appear in search of work. The matronly Mrs Mills (Fionnula Flanagan) is offered the role of nanny, while the mute Lydia (Alakina Mann) takes on the household chores and Mr Tuttle (Eric Sykes) tends the garden. With their arrival, strange things begin to take place.
The self-possessed Anne claims to see a young boy, Victor, wandering the house, incurring the wrath of Grace who imposes a strict religious upbringing and warns her that, “children who don’t tell the truth end up in limbo”. A succession of inexplicable events finally convinces the sceptical Grace who confesses to the unsurprised Mrs Mills, “There’s something in this house that’s not at rest”. Who or what that is becomes the question, one that is only made more intriguing with the reappearance of Grace’s husband Charles (Christoper Eccleston).
Written and directed by Alejandro Amenabar, The Others possesses an effective enough mood of suspense, but its flat pacing and heavy-handed efforts to create a nebulous world suggest loftier aspirations that it never quite attained. While making the central character aloof is permissible, inhabiting the whole film with a cast of un-engaging characters is less so. Presumably done with the film’s ‘surprise’ ending in mind, the problem is that by that time you care too little for those involved.
It won eight Goya Awards, including awards for Best Film and Best Director. This was the first English-language film ever to receive the Best Film Award at the Goyas (Spain’s national film awards), without a single word of Spanish spoken in it. The Others won Best Horror Film at the Saturn Awards, and Kidman received a Golden Globe and BAFTA nomination.
The film was released August 10, 2001 in 1,678 theatres in the United States and Canada and grossed $14 million its opening weekend, ranking fourth at the box office. It stayed in fourth for three more weeks, expanding to more theaters. During the weekend of September 21–23, it was second at the box office, grossing $5 million in 2,801 theaters. The film, which cost $17 million to produce, eventually grossed $96.5 million in the United States and Canada and $113.4 million in other countries, for a worldwide total gross of $209.9 million.