Monday, October 1, 2012

Are You Mad?

Renee Asherson
It's the first post of Shocktober and if you hadn't guessed from last month's clue, this year's Shocktober theme is Ghost Movies. There are tons of ghosts movies; both good and bad; serious and funny; scary and not scary at all. I thought about approaching the theme chronologically, but then decided to just jump right in and talk about a ghost movie that I not only really like, but think is exceptional.

2001's The Others is the English-language debut of Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar, a moody period piece about Grace (Nicole Kidman in an extraordinary performance) and her two photo-sensitive children Nicholas (James Bentley) and Anne (Alakina Mann). While her husband is off fighting WWII, Grace and her children find themselves alone in their mansion in Jersey, awaiting his return. When new servants Mrs Mills (Fionulla Flanagan of "Lost") and Mr. Tuttle (Harry Potter's Eric Sykes) arrive to care for the house and the family, strange events begin to convince Grace that the house may very well be haunted. 

As with any great scary ghost film, Amenabar knows that what we don't see is far more frightening than what we do and he uses sound and corner-of-the-eye visuals to exceptional effect here. Building slowly to a climax which (like The Sixth Sense) I figured out long before the reveal, Amenabar manipulates the audience so artfully and offers up the reveal so smartly, that (unlike The Sixth Sense), I didn't care that I had already figured out the twist. Of course, exceptional performances from Kidman (who was robbed of a nomination - she was nominated for Moulin Rouge, instead), Flannigan and Christopher Eccleston ("Dr. Who") as Grace's husband, help elevate what could have been a rather run-of-the-mill ghost story into something extraordinary. 

Loaded with atmosphere, mystery and enough shocks to keep one's interest, The Others is the kind of ghost story Robert Wise might have made. Of course, if you don't figure out the twist before it's revealed, I suppose that's a bonus. If you've never seen The Others, I recommend you do so. Alone. With the lights off. (Okay - you can share with someone to grab onto, if you want).

More, anon.

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