Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Alejandro Amenábar.
Starring Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Eric Sykes, Fionnula Flanagan, Elaine Cassidy, Keith Allen,
Alakina Mann, James Bentley.
Horror, Spain/U.K./ France/ Italy, 104 mins, cert 12.


Released in the UK on 4K UHD, Blu-ray & DVD via StudioCanal on 2nd October 2023.


In the late 1990s/early 2000s, the ghost story came floating back into the public consciousness, mostly thanks to M. Night Shyamalan’s THE SIXTH SENSE and its narrative trickery, and thus moviegoers had a run of spooky chillers that harked back to classics such as Robert Wise’s THE HAUNTING (itself remade around this time) and Peter Medak’s THE CHANGELING. Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Amenábar’s THE OTHERS originally came out in 2001 and continued the trend that Shyamalan’s movie pioneered, albeit tapping into the past more linearly.


As the war is coming to an end in 1945, on the island of Jersey, Grace (Nicole Kidman) and her two young children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley), are living in a huge old mansion without any electricity and no news of Grace’s missing husband. The two children have a rare condition that means they are sensitive to sunlight, so the curtains are constantly drawn, but one day, three servants who used to work in the house long before Grace lived there turn up and offer their services. Grace offers them – the kindly Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), the gardener Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes) and mute Lydia (Elaine Cassidy) – a place in the house, and they soon befriend the children.


However, it isn’t long after their arrival that strange things start to happen, as Grace can hear footsteps in the upstairs rooms and the sound of a child crying, even when she knows her own children are elsewhere, and Anne is convinced a boy named Victor is making mischief and opening the curtains, along with an old woman who is blind but can see things, prompting Grace to look beyond her own fears and sense of Catholic stoicism to see what is happening in her home.


THE OTHERS stood out at the time for its remarkable atmosphere and stunning cinematography, successfully creating a fog-bound gothic setting that didn’t require jump scares every few minutes or the reveal of monsters hiding in the glom. The movie is a mood piece, maintaining a pace and feel from the opening credits that never falters throughout its running time - even when the big reveals happen – and keeps everything relatively steady, that is, until it needs those slight moments of madness that punctuate the funereal ambience.


These moments are mainly provided by Grace as she discovers the gravity of her situation and why the three servants have come back to the house. Nicole Kidman has never been better – before or since – as the anxious mother trying to protect her children against the outside world's influences but not knowing why. The other standout is Fionnula Flanagan as Mrs. Mills, who is aware from the beginning of what is going on but carefully reveals what she knows, drip-feeding nuggets of information in the hope that Grace will catch on.


Despite this being a 4K UHD restoration, the differences when compared to the previous Blu-ray release are fairly minimal; they are there, but they are subtle, the main improvements being in the audio, which presents a 7.1 Dolby Atmos mix that accentuates the dynamics between quiet whispers and loud booms. Image-wise, there is more detail, but it is in small things like the strands of hair in Nicole Kidman’s period hairstyles being more noticeable. The movie was deliberately shot so that your eyes are drawn to the lighter areas of the screen and not concentrating on the black areas – pretty much the opposite of what contemporary horror movie making has trained audiences to do, thanks to many a found footage piece – and every format the movie has been released on has kept to Alejandro Amenábar’s vision. The director supervised this UHD upgrade, so you are still seeing his true vision, and obviously, things like the orange flames of the house’s fireplace are going to pop out more in this format, but the blacks and greys during the darker scenes stay nice and steady without any major crushing. As the movie was shot on film during the early days of CG enhancement, the minimal amount of digital trickery is noticeable if you look for it – the swirling fog that builds whenever Grace leaves the mansion or the flashes from the barrel of her shotgun when she shoots it - but not enough to take you out of the movie, as for the most part the grain is intact and keeps the feel of being shot on film.


Coming loaded with extras, including a brand-new retrospective featuring interviews with Alejandro Amenábar and Nicole Kidman and archive featurettes ported over from previous releases, THE OTHERS is still an effective chiller two decades later. As with THE SIXTH SENSE, the initial shock value diminishes on repeat viewings, but re-watching the movie once you know its secrets does add another perspective. As far as 4K restorations go, this isn’t the biggest overhaul that has ever taken place, but THE OTHERS is a movie that didn’t require it as it was meticulously lit and shot in the first place, so if you already own the Blu-ray you may want to ask yourself if you need to splash out on an upgrade, as the visual differences aren’t that spectacular, and the 7.1 audio track isn’t that far removed from the original 5.1 mix. Nevertheless, as far as supernatural ghost stories go, THE OTHERS is still a haunting masterpiece.


Chris Ward.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans