Anyone who knows me knows I am a scary movie wimp. I don’t mind a good ghost story from time to time but anything with murderers or that is violent count me out. So, it may surprise you to hear this week’s Family Movie Night recommendation is a horror movie! Yep, I believe any genre can have good movies if you know where to look. One such gem is 2001’s The Others- a film with striking atmosphere, escalating tension and a great story at its core.
The Others is directed by Alejandro Amenabar. This ended up being a one-man show practically with him directing, writing the screenplay and even composing the music for the film. Surprisingly he hasn’t really done anything else after this film but he hit it out of the park on his first time out.
Some may wonder why I would pick a horror movie for family movie night. I personally don’t see anything wrong with mature kids watching a scary movie. In fact, some of them really love the genre, so all the more reason to find quality films to recommend to them. In fact, The Others is rated PG-13 but it is a pretty mild PG-13. There is some sensuality but it is brief and no violence, gore or language. However, it is very tense and spooky. So, this would be more for families with older kids and teens.
The Others stars Nicole Kidman as Grace, a woman living in a large house in England. She is basically a single Mom with her husband yet to return from service in World War 2. Her children, a boy and a girl, are both photosensitive so they cannot be around any light. This causes the rooms to have thick curtains and everything to be very dark. As the movie continues the darkness almost seems to swallow Grace up.
At the beginning of the film she hires 3 new servants and she and the kids start to notice strange sounds in the big house. Kidman is great as a fragile, kind of delicate woman, who seems to be on the verge of a breakdown at any moment. It is a part I could imagine Grace Kelley playing in her Hitchcock films. People like to throw around Hitchcock’s name perhaps too liberally but The Others definitely has the feel of one of his masterpieces. I don’t want to give much more away in the plot but it is basically a mystery with Amenabar giving us clues slowly, building tension bit by bit.
There are a couple of reasons The Others works so well. Amenabar has crafted a film that is true art. The photography in the house with shadows and the little hints we get sunken into a scene is lovely to watch. The cinematography outside the house is also beautiful with a fair amount of fog and scraggly looking trees to set the mood.
The sound design and editing is great with a hint of breathing often heard in the background. You can feel the creaking of the floor boards and the pounding on the walls right along with the characters.
It is the kind of film that could have been really cheesy. It has many elements that are often groan inducing such as a séance, creepy children, a haunted house etc. but Amenabar pulls it all off so well.
It’s also a really good story and not just for scares. Grace is a woman of faith but here she is presented with these potential spirits. Does she believe in them? Does she believe in what she can’t see?
I think The Sixth Sense is a good comparison because it involves children and ghosts but to me the core story wasn’t as good as in The Others, so once the twist was revealed the film didn’t hold me as much on a rewatch. The twist was more compelling than the story or the characters. In contrast, The Others I have seen many times because of its beautiful filmmaking, acting and mostly its great story about a woman reconciling her faith and dealing with her grief.
Amenabar also does a wonderful job with the screenplay. My favorite line is when a character says “there isn’t always an answer to everything”. Isn’t that much scarier than a million ghosts? It is for me at least.
I don’t want to spoil anything but I will just say the ending paid off beautifully for me and was extremely chilling. Unlike some horror/suspense movies, (M Night Shyamalan I’m talking to you…) I don’t leave The Others feeling manipulated or tricked. This ending makes sense for the story being told and I found it very satisfying.
It may be too scary for some people but like I said I’m a scary movie wimp and I can stomach it. It’s one of the few horror movies I can confidently recommend to watch with your older children and teens. Introduce them to quality scary movies that are well made, acted and that tell an interesting story instead of simply cheap scares.
If you do see The Others I’d love to hear your experience and how scary you found it. Or if you have already seen it put your thoughts in the comments section. If you have any suggestions for future films please let me know.
Thanks and I hope you had a Happy Halloween!