[box cover]

The Others: Collector's Series

Buena Vista Home Video

Starring Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan, Alakina Mann,
and James Bentley

Written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar

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Review by Gregory P. Dorr                    

When The Sixth Sense exploded into an unexpected blockbuster in the late summer of 1999, raking in the box office and garnering effusive critical praise, it had to be expected that Hollywood would descend on it, rip it apart, and try to recreate its popularity ad nauseum until all interest in the genre fades from over-exposure. It's Hollywood's version of cloning: Take the most notorious aspect of the blockbuster and try to outdo it; the rest is paint-by-numbers.

Surprisingly, that didn't much happen following the deserved success of M. Night Shyamalan's popular ghost story. Sure, there were a few pallid, special-effects-heavy attempts at reviving the haunted house movie in its wake, but not until Alejandro Amenábar's 2001 The Others was there so obvious an attempt to recycle and surpass The Sixth Sense's most compelling properties.

In many ways, The Others (2001) is a fine film in its own right. Nicole Kidman stars as Grace, the spooked, and most likely widowed, wartime matron of a remote English manor in 1945. Her young children, Anne and Nicholas, suffer from a rare sensitivity to light, requiring the house to be enshrouded in darkness at all times for their health and safety. When the house's staff mysteriously vanishes without notice, Grace hires a trio of suspicious workers whose arrival coincides with the advent of frightening otherworldly events.

The Others is an absolutely fantastic-looking film. From the the fog-drenched exteriors surrounding the estate to the richly dark corridors inside the manor, Amenábar, cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe and production designer Benjamín Fernández deserve full credit for evoking an effectively chilling atmosphere. Like The Sixth Sense, The Others does not rely on special effects (at least not ostentatious effects) for its thrills: It's the way the characters react to mysterious events that is important; not the event itself. The Others succeeds in this sense with a terrific cast. Kidman is fine in her role, but it's the supporting players that fill out the film's personality. Veteran Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan is excellent as the mysterious new housekeeper, and Alakina Mann and James Bentley are terrific child performers who ably carry the brunt of the movie.

(The following section of criticism does not directly reveal SPOILERS, but in its coy way may offend readers sensitive to uninvited revelations.)

The only problem with The Others — and whether it's a coincidental or cynical occurrence is irrelevant — is that the twist ending on which its suspense almost entirely relies is far too obvious from the opening minutes that, aside from one very clever aspect, is not surprising and, in fact, feels shamefully derivative of The Sixth Sense. Not that it's a bad idea for a twist ending, but it follows too closely the Hollywood habit of taking a successful idea and multiplying it. It's a good concept out of context, but for seasoned filmgoers too familiar to be effective, unfortunately, and the inevitability of it casts a pall over the entire climactic sequence.

Disc Two

For some reason, Buena Vista felt it was necessary to release this Dimension Collector's Series item as a two-disc set, despite offering less than 45 minutes of extra features and no commentary with the main feature. What is included on the supplemental disc ranges in interest from the mildly diverting to the simply dull.

The feature is presented in a solid 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer and a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Other features on board include a still gallery and trailer.

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