The Others (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

In the motion picture industry, many films have been recycled from earlier work — no matter how often studios sell their productions as completely original, it’s just as often very apparent as to where many of the ideas came from. In “The Others”, for example, Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Amenabar came close to creating an outright carbon copy of the smash ghost-story thriller “The Sixth Sense”. But the writer-director put enough of his own spin on the story, and told it uniquely enough to create his own original, eerie piece.

The supernatural elements of “The Sixth Sense” are what made it one of 1999’s most popular films, and in the moviemaking business, it’s smart to capitalize on past successes — provided you can add your own twist on the idea. Writer-director Amenabar did that by setting his spooky tale in England at the close of World War II, where Grace (Nicole Kidman) lives with her two children in a large, secluded house on the island of Jersey. When three new housekeepers arrive to work there one day, we learn Grace’s children have a severe case of photosensitive allergies and cannot be exposed to any light stronger than that of a candle. Soon strange things start happening, and because the house is kept in complete darkness, the stage is set for a very haunting film.

Amenabar, a young filmmaker whose credits are all Spanish, can even be compared to Sixth Sense writer-director M. Night Shyamalan as far as his technique is concerned. Both seem to have a strong knowledge of acting, lighting, and storytelling. Amenabar got newcomer child actors Alakina Mann and James Bentley to perform much better than most actors of their age, much as Shyamalan did with Haley Joel Osment in “The Sixth Sense”. Nicole Kidman also gave a near-flawless performance as the strict mother and employer who seemed to be almost too protective of her light-sensitive children. She simply won’t believe that her house is haunted, and she carries much of the film with her stern beliefs and actions.

Given that the children are photosensitive, the lighting in “The Others” is very significant, and Amenabar and his cinematographer were well aware of this. They framed and lit each scene very well, and because the children must live in darkness, the dim-lighting was crucial not only to their health but to the film’s haunting ambiance. This, coupled with the facts that we can only see the children in darkness and that most of the supernatural incidents are witnessed only by them, makes the setting very surreal. Along those lines, Amenabar could have made the film scarier, but he stuck more to a believable story rather than concentrating on making the audience jump.

Like M. Night Shyamalan must have done with Sxith Sense, Amenabar started with his ending and worked from there. It worked a little better for Shyamalan because he crafted an engaging, believable film from the start and then pulled out the surprise ending. For the most part, Amenbar did this too, but he leaves too much in question during the middle of the film. This will inspire many people to see the movie again — also a filmmaker’s goal — but he could have focused more on making the entire film more enjoyable instead of teasing the viewer with an excess of open storylines. Many of these stories were eventually cleared up (like Grace’s husband returning from war, or the three housekeepers discreetly conspiring about something) but they created a sense of doubt you don’t necessarily want to have in the middle of your movie.

Otherwise, Amenbar had a great premise by taking elements of “The Sixth Sense” and putting them into a more classic horror setting like the huge Victorian mansion. Additionally, he put a lot of effort into it, from writing the script to composing the score, and it showed. Other copycat filmmakers should take note, because that’s the trick to successfully recycling an idea in Hollywood.

Video: How does it look?

I remember seeing “The Others” in theaters a decade ago and noted to myself how incredibly dark the film was both in tone and texture. As it so happens, nothing has changed (and why would it, really?) with this Blu-ray release. The 1.85:1 AVC HD image looks strong and consistent throughout, though the film is just dark. Even Kidman’s lovely auburn hair seems to get a bit washed out in some of the scenes. Black levels are strong as is contrast and I did notice some improvement in the detail from the standard DVD release. This initial HD release has made “The Others” look good, not that it ever looked bad. Still, close all the doors and cover your windows because, if I hadn’t made myself clear, this is one dark movie!

Audio: How does it sound?

With the addition of a DTS HD Master Audio track, I can safely say that “The Others” now sounds as good at home as it does when I saw it in theaters oh so long ago. There seem to be two extremes to this film, the quiet and discrete part and the loud knocks and bumps that occur later in the film. This is what a good soundtrack is all about, taking the highs and lows (literally) and being orchestrated into a very nice mix that takes cues from other movies. Dialogue is a bit on the soft side, then again it’s supposed to be. The LFE do their part as well to make this one very well-rounded track.

Supplements: What are the extras?

As is the case with most all of these Miramax releases, the supplements are exactly the same as with the previous two-disc DVD from 2001. The extras are really nothing more than four featurettes and a trailer. Still, they are interesting and they start with “A Look Inside: “The Others””. This is a 20+ minute featurette that actually takes place after the movie has been released. They comment on the success of it, how it worked, etc. I found this to be a nice touch as so many of these are just the same old thing time after time. Next up is “Xeroderma Pigmentosum” which is a closer look at the ultra-rare disease that the kids supposedly had in the film. The Mahar’s are interviewed as their daughter is one of only 1,000 known cases. We then find “An Intimate Look at Director Alejandro Amenabar”. It’s a shorter featurette at 7 minutes, but has some behind the scenes footage with the director. Lastly, we find a five minute visual effects piece.

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