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copyright ©1999-2002

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flick pick | The Others 2001
Directed + written by: Alejandro Amenabar
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan, Alakina Mann, James Bentley
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under:
drama, thriller
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: mind-bending, scary
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5

Plot synopsis In a big, looming mansion on a fog-filled isle just off the British coast, Grace Stewart lives with her two young children, Anne and Nicholas. Grace’s husband has been off fighting in the war, leaving Grace all alone to look after the children, both of whom suffer from a rare disorder that makes them extremely hyper-sensitive to light. Because any exposure to bright light, whether artificial of natural, makes them terribly, terribly ill, the children must live in a state of near-pitch darkness; to ensure that no light accidentally falls on either one, Grace has a strict set of rules that she insists that everyone who lives in the house must follow at all times. Curtains must be drawn tightly closed whenever the children are in a room, doors must remain firmly shut when not in use, and no room must ever have two doors open at the same time. When strange things start happening, all signs point to the presence of ghosts, and the toll of living with a possibly sinister supernatural presence makes life even more difficult for emotionally fragile Grace, and the children as well. When the entire house-staff takes off in the middle of one strange night, Grace puts in an ad for new servants. Soon after,  three mysterious strangers— Bertha Mills, Edmund Tuttle, and a mute girl named Lydia— show up at the Stewart’s doorsteps, ostensibly to take on the housekeeping duties.

Review Alejandro Amenabar’s movies never sound very enticing to me when I check out their little summaries on the back of the video/DVD covers. The plots always read like standard Hollywood-style horror/suspense stories, the sort that are meant to be creepy/scary/mind-bending – except that by now, we’ve all seen the same plot recycled so many times that these sorts of movies rarely offer anything new. But young Spanish director Amenabar has a knack for putting an interesting twist on the usual conventions, and making tired genres feel fresh and unexpected for jaded viewers convinced they’re too smart to be fooled by surprise endings. The Others is Amenabar’s third feature film, and as with his first two films, you go into the movie expecting one thing – in this case, your basic haunted house horror story – and end up finding something quite different and altogether more poignant (I’d tell you more, but the surprise element is a big part of why the movie’s so enjoyable to watch). Amenabar sets up his haunted house story perfectly – the spooky soundtrack, the fog-filled landscape, the somber color palette, the elegant cinematography, and the many shadowy nooks and crannies of the mansion sliced by slivers of sunlight, all serve to create a beautifully chilling, creepy atmosphere. There’s a slow, slow build-up to anything remotely jump-out-of-your-seat scary, but it’s exactly that patient, drawn-out ambience-building that lets the movie get under your skin: the anticipation of something terrible, Amenabar understands, can be far more frightening than seeing the horror itself ... it’s your imagination that fuels your fright. Too often, people think that a fun movie is a dumb movie, but The Others is a cool flick precisely because it forces your mind to work, in a way that makes for truly superb entertainment.
—reviewed by Y. Sun

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