It’s 1945 and Grace’s husband Charles (Christopher Eccleston) went off to fight in World War II and never came back. She is therefore left alone to raise her two children Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley) in a cavernous Victorian mansion engulfed in gloom and fog on the Isle of Jersey. Following the German Occupation the family learned to live without electricity which worked to their advantage since the youngsters suffer a rare allergy to light and cannot be exposed to any light brighter than a candle. The three new servants Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan) Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes) and Lydia (Elaine Cassidy) are carefully briefed by Grace about the importance of closing and locking every door in the house. The light she explains must be locked out like water from room to room. The religiously repressed Grace is also prone to migraine attacks and insists the house must be kept in absolute silence at all times. When Anne begins to complain that she see ghosts in the house Grace tells the servants “My children sometimes have strange ideas but you mustn’t listen to them. Children will be children.” Eventually however she begins to believe that perhaps there are others living amongst them in the house.
Kidman plays the part of Grace with the perfect amount of fear and intensity that her character needs to make the film both chilling and suspenseful. Though Grace tries to put on a strong face for her children you can always sense her underlying concern and anxiety. Her hands constantly fidget and her eyes always follow the creaking ceilings or the mysteriously opening doors. Kidman does a magnificent job making sure her character never looks at peace with herself and is constantly perturbed. Even when Grace is sitting with her needlepoint and sipping tea she looks fearful and agitated. Mann and Bentley who play the two children also deliver intense performances. They are not smart alecks but they are clever. When Anne tells her confused and bewildered mother “Are you mad? I am your daughter!” it will leave your hair standing on the back of your neck. The three servants are eerie especially Cassidy‘s character Lydia who is mute. Always wide-eyed she looks genuinely shocked and perpetually scared. The cast’s ability to portray terror and panic authentically is what makes this film successfully creepy and terrifying.
The story opens with Grace reading a lesson by candlelight to her children and the film never gets much brighter than that. Because the mansion has no electricity and the curtains are always drawn the lighting is always somber and dusky adding to the film’s cold and gloomy feel. The outdoor scenes are bathed in a thick icy fog that can be seen in the rooms where light is allowed to seep in. The costumes and hairstyles combined with the lighting and settings give this film a 1950s feel. Director Alejandro Amenábar delivers a bone-chilling horror picture with a suspenseful story that builds slowly but keeps your interest and never lets go. The Others is that rare film which scares without blood and gore relying instead on intelligent story telling and never ending tension. The plot has enough diversions to keep you guessing its premise until the very end when viewers will be rewarded with a clever twist.