ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 9, 2001
When the Straight’s movie editor asked me if I wanted to review the new Nicole Kidman horror movie at a midnight screening—with free popcorn, drinks, and ice cream—I jumped at the chance. The alluring combo of late-night shocks and gratis goodies totally blinded me to the fact that usually by 1 a.m., my 44-year-old eyelids have already taken a dive.
So it was only with extreme effort that I managed to stay awake through The Others, which—during its first hour, at least—is one of the slowest fright flicks ever made. When the big payoff finally comes, you’re left wondering if it was all worth it.
I wondered for about three seconds, and decided it wasn’t.
Kidman stars as Grace, the neurotic mother of two ghostly-pale children, living in a remote mansion on an island near the English coast. She’s been waiting for her soldier husband to return from the Second World War, and the waiting hasn’t been easy. In their oppressive seclusion, the poor kids—played by the perpetually frowning James Bentley and the promising Alakina Mann—have developed a photosynthetic disease that requires them to avoid direct sunlight at all costs. The girl also claims to be in regular contact with an unseen boy named Victor, who is evidently haunting the place.
This doesn’t sit well with her batty and beleaguered mom, who spends most of her time running wide-eyed around the dingy house, making sure every door is locked, every curtain drawn. When a trio of mysterious servants turns up at her door before Grace can even advertise for their services, she hires them anyway.
What a nut case!
It’s obvious that writer-director Alejandro Amenábar is trying to subtly build layers of ghostly tension with his introduction of questionable characters and his candlelit shooting style, but man, till it nears the climax, this movie crawls. The ever-glowing Kidman doesn’t really cut it as a tormented woman on the brink of madness, although she does get to deliver some chuckle-inducing lines, as when she refers to WWII’s warring factions as “the goodies and the baddies”.
And you’ve got to give her credit for accomplishing one supernatural feat with The Others: getting Tom “Gimme that divorce!” Cruise to executive-produce it.