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Others: SE, The

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG-13 // May 14, 2002
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted April 26, 2002 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Ever since "The Sixth Sense" Hollywood has taken a light turn for the better when it comes to the horror genre, seeking out intelligent, subtle thrillers instead of rapidly edited and cliched teen horror films. Alejandro Amenábar's "The Others" is the finest example of this new legion of supernatural tales, a supernatural thriller that has phenomenal performances and superb atmosphere.

Set in 1945 in a British mansion on the Isle of Jersey, the film revolves around Grace (Nicole Kidman) and her two children, Anne and Nicholas. The two children are very ill, suffering from an extreme sensitivity to light (this is a real disease that is covered in a documentary included in the DVD's supplemental section). Their father had been sent to war and has not been heard from since. Furthermore, their housekeepers recently walked out one day, simply leaving without notice.

Suddenly, new servants - Mrs. Mills, Mr. Tuttle and the mute Lydia - appear without notice, explaining that they had worked in the house long before and simply returned to see if any work could be done. Lately, the children have also begun to see strange things, much to the disbelief of their mother, who dismisses their statements until she begins to detect a presence herself.

Much has been made in the press about this being Nicole Kidman's breakout year, but it was her performance in "Moulin Rouge" that got most of the attention during awards season. While her performance in "Moulin Rouge" was stunning, her performance in "The Others" is equally impressive and, it could be argued, more remarkable and dynamic than her "Rouge" effort. The two children who play Grace's children in the movie are also impressive, especially the actress (Alakina Mann) who plays the daughter.

Much was also made about comparisons between "The Others" and "The Sixth Sense". Both films were released in mid-August with little fanfare or advertising, getting an impressive boost from word-of-mouth and repeat business from those who wanted to see the films again. Yet, M. Night Shyamalan's film, as remarkable and chilling a thriller as it was, remains less involving than this film for me. Shyamalan's film was restrained and subtle across the board, from the performances to the pace; Amenábar's builds rapidly in both intensity and pace - while the early half is subtle and somewhat slow, the director is able to mine an almost unbearable amount of well-earned tension from the combination of the bold performances and stunning atmosphere. The two also have a surprise ending, but I enjoyed the way that this film gradually built up towards the conclusion - the ride towards the finale was actually more enjoyable the second time around, surprisingly.

While I didn't really care for Amenábar's too-twisty "Open Your Eyes" (later remade by Tom Cruise and Cameron Crowe as "Vanilla Sky"), the director really has masterfully crafted an intense, terrifying and suspenseful thriller. Kidman's performance is one of her finest, if not her very best.


VIDEO: Dimension Home Video presents "The Others" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a film that is filled with shadows, dim lighting and scenes with mild fog at times. Certainly, like "From Hell" (which is released the same week to DVD), this is a difficult film to get right when it comes to the image quality on DVD. Luckily, Buena Vista has done a mostly excellent job on this film's presentation; it probably helps that the whole first disc has been devoted only to the film itself.

Sharpness and detail are quite good; the picture has a slight intentional softness, but the image still appeared consistently smooth, crisp and well-defined, even in some of the more dimly-lit sequences. This is a film with rich, beautiful cinematography and lighting and I felt the film's atmospheric visuals really shined again here, for the most part.

"For the most part", because there are some imperfections to Dimension's efforts. Slight traces of pixelation were apparent in a couple of scenes, as were some instances of edge enhancement. Neither flaw was terribly distracting, but they remained noticable. The print used wasn't entirely perfect, either: while the slight-to-moderate grain is intentional, I was a bit dissapointed to see a handful of instances of slight specks on the print used. Certainly nothing serious, but I was hoping for a completely clean presentation.

The film's subdued, but still occasionally rather warm color palette was flawlessly presented, with colors looking accurate and problem-free. Black level was perfect, while flesh tones looked natural. Not quite perfect, but still a very good effort from Dimension.

SOUND: "The Others" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. It's surprising that the DVD does not include a DTS track - given the fact that the film has a disc to itself, I'd think that there could be room. Still, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is more than satisfying. This is not a loud film, nor is it a film with a lot of agressive small touches (see the soundtrack for the remake of "House on Haunted Hill").

When I saw the film in the theater, the subtle nature of the second half was broken by a slight background hiss, which gradually began to irritate me. Thankfully, the soundtrack on the DVD suffers from no such problems. This film's sound relies mainly on the score by director Amenábar, which is haunting and elegant, a perfect match for the film. The score mainly resides in the front speakers, although there is some minor reinforcement from the rears on occasion.

While I said prior that this is certainly not an agressive or loud soundtrack, it is not without a handful of moments where the rear speakers provide very spooky, effective sound effects. One moment fairly early on made me jump and I'd seen this movie before. Audio quality was very good; there wasn't a great deal of bass, but there really isn't a need for it. The score sounded crisp and warm, while dialogue came through sounding clear and natural.

MENUS: The menus provide minor, appropriate animation that works nicely to introduce the movie.

A Look Inside "The Others": This is a 22-minute documentary that doesn't stray too far from the usual "making of" pieces that are commonly available on most DVDs today. Interviews with the director, Kidman and other members of the cast are provided and they mainly discuss the story, for at least the first half. The second half starts to provide a bit more in the way of production information and "making of" footage.

XP: A Look At The Disease: One of my questions after seeing the film in theaters last Summer was whether or not the disease that the children suffered from was real. This 8-minute documentary focuses on one family whose daughter suffers from the rare illness of being highly sensitive to light, to the point where she is not able to venture out into the daylight.

Also: A 4-minute look at the visual effects, an 8-minute look at the director, stills gallery, trailer(full-frame/5.1)

Final Thoughts: "The Others" is a modern classic from director Amenabar, lead by a terrific screenplay and an absolutely riveting performance from Nicole Kidman. While it comes as somewhat dissapointing that there isn't more in the way of supplements or a DTS track, this is an otherwise very enjoyable DVD edition from Dimension that provides good audio/video and a fair amount of extras. "The Others" is a must-see.
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