The Others

The Others (2001)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Nicole Kidman
Extras: Behind-the-scenes Featurettes, Visual Effects Featurette, Still Gallery, Theatrical Trailer, Disease Profile

During the summer of 2001, when the typical "gee whiz" action films and gross-out comedies were invading theaters, a little horror film entitled "The Others" snuck into the multiplexes. Featuring a pre-Oscar buzz Nicole Kidman and a Spanish director that most people had never heard of, the film suddenly became a $100 million smash, dazzling audiences and critics alike. "The Others" is now prepared to haunt home video in a special 2-disc set from Dimension Home Video.

"The Others" is set in a gothic mansion which is nestled in the Channel Islands of Jersey, England. World War II has come to a close and Grace (Nicole Kidman) lives alone in the mansion with her two children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley), awaiting her husband’s return from the front. Things are quite bad for Grace, as all of her servants have disappeared and she must care for the children by herself. Both children suffer from a rare malady called Xeroderma Pigmentosum, which causes severe blistering, burning, and tumors if the patient is exposed to sunlight. Therefore, the house is kept very dark and the heavy curtains are always closed.

Fortunately, three new servants, Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes), and Lydia (Elaine Cassidy) arrive to assist Grace. All seems well, but then strange occurrences begin to happen in the house. There are loud noises, furniture moves by itself, doors open and close seemingly at will, and the curtains open mysteriously. Clearly, this is the work of the new servants, who are apparently playing some sort of strange prank on Grace. But, Anne and Nicholas claims to have seen strangers in the house, and believe that there is a supernatural cause to the events. Grace must get to the bottom of this mystery before she loses her sanity.

This film is a triumph of style and storytelling, proving that less can definitely be more. Writer/director Alejandro Amenabar had already made two very impressive thrillers, "Tesis" and "Abre Los Ojos", but "The Others" shows a maturation on his part. While the previous films had been more in the vein of psychological thrillers with sci-fi or slasher elements thrown in, "The Others" plays as a very quiet, studied piece in which the story is allowed to unfold slowly, as the director increases the tension. I hesitate to call it old fashioned (as that’s not a compliment in my mind), but that fits this film. It’s reminiscent of the classic horror films, yet the story is universal enough to be enjoyed by all. The cast is terrific, most notably Kidman, who appears in nearly every shot of the film. (Also, the casting is excellent — note that the young actress playing Anne looks as if she could actually be Kidman’s daughter.) I can certainly imagine that some jaded moviegoers may find "The Others" slow, but for anyone else who’s in the mood for a creepy film with a great cast and story, then "The Others" is highly recommended.

"The Others" arrives on DVD from Dimension Home Video. The film is presented in an <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> and is <$PS,letterboxed> at 1.85:1. This is an excellent transfer, as it offers a very sharp and clear image, showing no overt defects. "The Others" is basically a very dark film and this DVD does a great job of maintaining a sharp image while displaying the numerous black and gray shades with no oversaturation or bleeding of the picture. There is no distracting artifacting, nor are there any noticeable defects from the source print. There is a minimal amount of grain in some shots, but it is very mild. Overall, this transfer is satisfactory in every way.

The primary audio track on this DVD is a <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 channel> mix. The good news is that it sounds very good, offering clear dialogue, an impressive sound field, numerous surround sound effects and adequate bass response. The bad news is that it doesn’t sound as good as the <$DTS,DTS> track which was offered on the Region 3 release of "The Others". This DTS track was louder, offered a crisper, wider sound field, and much deeper bass extension. So, the bottom line is that the Dolby Digital track on the Region 1 DVD is good and acceptable, but it would have been much better if the pre-existing DTS track could have been incorporated into this release.

The extra features for "The Others" are all to be found on Disc 2 of the set. The first extra is a 22-minute behind-the-scenes featurette entitled "A Look Inside ’The Others’". As with most segments of this type, there are far too many clips from the movie (hello, we just watched it!), but otherwise, this is an impressive feature. It offers interviews with Amenabar, Kidman, and producers Paula Wagner and Tom Cruise (?!). Amenabar expounds on how the story grew from his own childhood fears. There is a brief overview of his earlier films (with some clips of "Abre Los Ojos"). Also, the fact that Amenabar did the score is examined. The segment ends with an examination of "The Others"’ box-office success. So, instead of the usual studio dullness, this featurette acknowledges the fact that Amenabar had a lot to do with the film’s success and it goes beyond the making of the film.

Next, we have what is called a "Visual Effects Piece". This looks at seven different shots from the movie and examines how various filmed and CGI shots were layered to create the final visual. This is explained through visuals only, as there is no narration. The next feature examines the disease Xeroderma Pigmentosum, and looks at one family that is dealing with this crippling ailment. While watching the film, you’ll wonder if this disease is real and this disturbing piece will answer all of your questions. Following this is "An Intimate Look at director Alejandro Amenabar". Instead of being a career overview of his work or an interview, this is simply 8-minutes of behind-the-scenes video showing Amenabar at work on the set of "The Others". This is only mildly interesting and it would have been much better to actually examine his career and workstyle. The extras are rounded out by a still gallery, and the theatrical trailer for the film, which is presented full-frame and in Dolby 5.1.

Most anyone who watches "The Others" will understand why it swept the Goya Awards (Spain’s version of the Oscars). This great little film introduced director Alejandro Amenabar’s twist-ending style to the world and set a high-watermark for modern gothic film. (Although, I still prefer his "Tesis".) The DVD offers a very nice transfer of the film with nearly flawless video and a lively Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The special features offer some interesting information about the film’s production, but are basically disappointing. In any event, "The Others" is a must-see and it may just change the way that you look at haunted house movies.