Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Others

Here there be Spoilers. You've been warned. Proceed at your own risk.

To begin with, let me say that I genuinely enjoyed The Others. It was stylish, creepy, well written for the most part, and beautifully photographed. However, I must point out to the marketing department that if you advertise something as having a "surprise, shock ending" that I'm probably going to deduce that ending well before the movie is over. And I did. Though it's entirely possible that I would have figured it out without the slogan on the box, I wouldn't have been LOOKING for it, if you take my meaning. About the time that Nicole Kidman's long missing husband (played by former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleson) shows up out of the blue, I says to myself, I says, "Oh. He's a ghost and she must be too. She and her kids are dead."
Fortunately the movie was a lot of fun so I kept watching, and they did throw a few surprises my way. I thought the idea that the new family in the house and the spiritualist they had hired were the ones "haunting" Nicole and the kids to be a clever bit of writing, especially when Nicole interrupts the séance with what to the living people looks like poltergeist activity. Once this revelation is made, most of the cryptic events of the previous couple of hours make sense. I say most, because a lot of stuff isn't really explained away.
Now as to the "Gothic" nature of the film, it's mostly cosmetic. The movie does take place in the expected old creepy house with it's winding stairs and dark corridors and there are obviously some supernatural occurrences, but the plot is missing the primary element of the true Gothic, the Hero-villain. What we have here is a twilight zone style ghost story with some gothic trappings. The Others is basically an updating of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw' which is often touted as a Gothic itself, but doesn't meet all of the criteria. Then again, the definition of the term has become somewhat blurred over the years so that a lot of horror fiction is often grandfathered in.
As I mentioned above, the film is beautifully photographed and artfully directed. There's a real claustrophobic atmosphere to the old house wreathed in a fog that never dissipates. The director uses candlelight and other indirect light sources to make the most of the lanky charms of his leading lady. Kidman is attractive but somehow unlikable in the roll of the haunted heroine.
Anyway, I definitely liked the movie and I'm glad I picked it up. Possibly should have waited until Halloween to watch it, but hey, I wondered what all the shouting in my various Gothic reference books was about. Seems to me that crowd was a little to eager to shoehorn The Others into the genre, but that's just my take.

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