Robin Pierce OnLine
Addressing the Geek Nation......
Shocktober 2021 13. The Witch (2015)
Shocktober 2021 12. The Frighteners (1996)
Shocktober 2021 10 The Horror at 37,000 feet
Shocktober 2021 9. Van Helsing (2004)
Shocktober 2021 8. Kiss of the Vampire (1963)
Shocktober 2021 7 The Frozen Dead (1966)
Shocktober 2021 6. Mr. Sardonicus (1961)
Shocktober 2021 5. Race With the Devil (1975)
Shocktober 2021 4. The Return of the Vampire (1943)
Shocktober 2021 3. The Sorcerers (1967)
Shocktober 2021 2. Gargoyles (1972)
Shocktober 2021 1. The Man Who Laughs (1928)
Shocktober 2021 11. The Others (2001)

“Are you mad? I am your daughter!” – Anne

The Others (2001) - IMDb

Of all the thirteen films in this year’s selection, this one, in my opinion is the spookiest and most downright un-nerving. I hadn’t seen it, to my surprise, since the days of good old VHS – evidenced by the fact that the DVD was still in its price stickered cellophane. I remembered one scene from the time I watched it twenty years ago, and that was about it. But I remember that it was amazingly atmospheric and figured it was time to revisit, as I’d be coming to the film more or less fresh – and it was a good call.

The year is 1945, the setting is Jersey which during the war had been occupied by the Germans. Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) lives reclusively in a large mansion-like house with her two children Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley). Both kids have an affliction which manifests as extreme photosensitivity – they can’t be exposed to light. Or at least light that’s any stronger than candlelight. So, the house is kept in darkness, wherever the children are. Although in 1945, Jersey had electricity, the Nazis kept cutting it off. Grace and her children learned to live without it.

Grace is so paranoid about the kids not being exposed to light, that she insists on locking every door behind her in case the children stray into a room or hall that isn’t in darkness. Heavy curtains are drawn all day. She explains this emphatically to the three new servants who appear at her door – Mrs Mills (Fionnula Flanagan) Mr Tuttle the gardener (Eric Sykes) and the mute Lydia (Elaine Cassidy).

Grace’s behaviour is quirky and eccentric to say the least, and Nicole Kidman is just amazing in this role. Both vulnerable and domineering. Protective and threatening. She treads the line between caution and obsessive compulsion in her dealings with the calm and unflappable Mrs Mills, who is played with quiet authority and is the perfect foil.

Another of Grace’s demands is that she doesn’t like noise. She likes silence, in case she gets a migraine so everybody’s basically treading on eggshells around her. She’s about to get her peace disturbed a little bit though.

Anne, who seems to be the sharper and more imaginative of the two children, being the eldest – and a bit spiteful to be honest, towards her younger brother, claims to see other people in the house, including a little boy named Victor. Repeated punishments won’t get her to change her story or apologise for telling lies. She’s adamant that this child exists.

There’s a music room in the house containing a piano, that Grace won’t let anybody play. It begins to play itself. In a locked room. And that’s another thing, locked rooms become unlocked. However harshly she speaks to the household staff, they insist they didn’t unlock anything. The tension and unease begin to mount inexorably.

The servants seem to know more than they let on, there are three hidden graves in the grounds surrounding the house that they’re keen to keep hidden. Things take a stranger turn when Grace’s husband, presumed killed in the war returns, only to go back “to the front” to fight again – despite the war being over. Anne is left to play in a dark room, locked for her safety – but when Grace returns, she finds a blind old lady in Anne’s communion dress. Grace attacks this intruder, who’s speaking in Anne’s voice – only to find it’s Anne herself. There are references to something terrible that happened one night, that Nicholas can’t remember, but Anne does.

Nicole Kidman's The Others is getting a "timely" remake

Grace finds an album – literally a Book of the Dead, where in Victorian times corpses were photographed in remembrance. Adults and children’s corpses were actually formally dressed up and posed, propped up for the camera post mortem and their photographs kept in an album – and this was a real thing.

One morning, Grace awakens to the screams of her children – all the curtains in every room of the house have been removed. All of them. Who could have done such a thing? Hastily, she boards up the windows where she home schools the children.

The story becomes a little clearer when Grace finds a photo that has fallen out of the album – showing her three servants dead on a bed just as the children are out at night and discover the three graves, those of the servants. They had all died of tuberculosis fifty years earlier.

As the tension and hysteria mounts – we find that this is indeed a haunted house story, but with a major difference. It’s seen from the point of view of the ghosts. Grace and her children don’t know they’re dead. Grace, in a fit of depression, killed her two children by smothering them with pillows before killing herself. Her husband was killed in the war, and came to bid a farewell to his family now they too are spirits. The servants used to work at the house, and are there to help guide the family along to accepting what has happened to them.

As for The Others of the title, they are the living. The people who buy the house and intrude on the domain of the deceased who are tied to the place. Victor is the child of the latest family, who’ve been trying to commune with the spirits through a medium – the blind old lady, before abandoning the house. It is they who removed the curtains, played the piano, and moved things around the house. As Mrs Mills explains, sometimes you’ll see them, sometimes you won’t.

Now knowing they’re dead and can’t be harmed, the children can finally play in the light.

This is a truly remarkable film, not only is it creepy as hell and absolutely full of atmospheric chills, its conclusion is ultimately heart-warming.

More hauntings on their way tomorrow. Maybe a touch lighter in spirit, maybe not. 

 Copyright © 2010 - 2021 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.

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