The Others (2001) tells the story of Grace (Nicole Kidman) who moves into a new house in Jersey with her two photosensitive children. Strange events start to occur which leads Grace into believing that her house is haunted.
This film incorporates the standard themes of a haunted house movie through the use of expected random voices and closing doors. However, The Others felt more like a psychological mystery thriller than it did a horror film. I say this because it wasn’t necessarily a scary movie, it was more confusing and always required the questioning of what was happening. For example the new house-keepers who randomly turn up have a girl who is a mute with them in which they become shady about answering how she became a mute. This in itself leads to questions of her past and also the two individuals she accompanies. The film doesn’t attempt to hide or conceal the notion that there are ghosts in the house, as early on we become knowledgeable about the daughter seeing a young ghost boy named Victor. What the film does hide is a sense of threat from the assumed ghosts, instead the enemy is the light. The house is filled with strange rules, for example each previous door must be locked before entering a new room, I’m not too sure of the point of this other than to elicit that the mother is slightly mad or paranoid, or both.
Essentially, the film carries on with subtle clues to something mysterious and strange going on with the new housekeepers and also with these “ghosts”. We later find out that there is a photo album filled with dead people because they believed that their souls would live on through their pictures. Then after a while of suspense we finally find out that the housekeepers are indeed ghosts when the children find their gravestones and Grace finds their dead pictures. However, they aren’t your typical ghosts as they do not intend to do harm and rather are trying to help Grace get along with the living and the dead. As strange as this seems, during the climactic ending it is revealed that Grace and her children, along with the housekeepers, are all dead and that they are the ghosts “haunting” a real family also living in their home.
In terms of originality The Others is up there as one of the best horror movies, however, in terms of just making sense and having a clear and understandable plot, it missed the mark for me. There were too many questions, or maybe it was meant to be ambiguous. Nevertheless, I am still left with questions such as why did Grace go mad and kill her children? What was the whole situation with the father seemingly returning and then leaving? What was the meaning of the religious themes? Ultimately, I would have loved some form of backstory at the end, some sort of closure and understanding. However, one aspect of the film I found interesting was how usually within a horror film the atmosphere tends to get darker and eerier, however, with The Others, things became brighter, and instead of being eerie they simply became extremely chaotic. So it seemed that since they were ghosts, the light was their enemy, and for the living the darkness was theirs. Maybe this is reading into it too much, but if it was intended I thought it was a nice touch. The Others also seemed to use clear themes of faith in a way to comment on superstitions. If I recall correctly, the mother Grace says something such as “how can they be so superstitious” even though she attempts to be deeply Christian and believes that there is a heaven and a hell. Clearly, as we find out by the end, they are neither in heaven or in hell. I wasn’t sure how to take this as I cannot tell if there is an intended meaning behind showing a religious family being in neither heaven or hell when they are dead. Or maybe this is the director’s interpretation of the afterlife? Just simply being spiritually attached to the place you die and remaining there for eternity.
And suppose we do leave you, ma’am, do you suppose that They will? – Mrs. Mills