This year marks the 17th anniversary of a greatly underrated slice of early 00’s horror, Alejandro Amenábar’s chilling The Others.
The Others was a film out of vogue during the time it was released. No one was really making classy, period horror films anymore. The order of the day back in the late nineties/early noughties was predominantly uninspired, teen-targeted slasher fare. That’s not to say the early years of the noughties were completely without merit as far as invention in the genre was concerned, far from it.
In the early years of the 21st century we saw the likes of Ginger Snaps, American Psycho, Battle Royale, What lies Beneath and The Cell daring to try something a little different whilst also achieving success within the genre. No one was truly going “old school” though, the days of the creepy ghost movie seemed long forgotten expect for the excellent Sixth Sense. So, to find something as sumptuous and lovingly crafted as The Others really was a special kind of rarity at this time.
The Others was directed by Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar. Primarily known at this time for his two prior Spanish language films Tesis (1996) which garnered 7 prestigious Goya awards, and also Abre los ojos (1997), remade by Cameron Crowe in the shape of Vanilla Sky (2001). The Others was to be Amenábar’s first English language feature.
The Others took its story from an episode of the British TV series Armchair Theatre called The Others (1970). It was also remade as Voices (1973) staring British character actor David Hemmings. The story received some changes in period setting and also in its plot points but the basis remains. In a round about way, The Others is in fact a remake.
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A Class Act
Amenábar’s take on The Others told the story of a woman in post-war Britain who lives in an old house on the island of Jersey with her two children. The children both suffer with a form of photo-sensitivity and are forbidden to leave the house. Over time, the family become convinced their home is in fact haunted. The Others was a classy-slice of old school horror. The film was an expertly weaved ghost story that layered dread and intrigue in such a way that hadn’t been handled so deftly in years.
Casting The Others
The Others already had a remarkable directorial talent in place and an adapted screenplay of note. The film clearly needed a cast to carry this weighty story with a degree of believability and sensitivity. It certainly succeeded in just that, assembling an impressively varied and talented cast.
Nicole Kidman was secured for the role of Grace. Kidman originally tried to persuade Alejandro Amenábar to find another actress for the part. Kidman had recently wrapped Moulin Rouge! (2001) and was reluctant to undertake a role in a film that explored such dark places. Kidman, upon eventually taking the role actually quit during rehearsals, as playing Grace gave her nightmares.
The actress found the part extremely challenging on an emotional level. Having just come off a bright and exuberant film to go straight into something the polar opposite, it’s understandable. This was also a pretty tumultuous time for Kidman who was in the process of divorcing her husband Tom Cruise. I think ultimately that stress, fear and uncertainty comes through in her performance. These facets work spectacularly to Kidman’s credit in delivering a sympathetic and one of her career best performances.
The roles of the Stewart children were not easily cast. Somewhere in the region of 5,000 kids were auditioned for the roles of Anne and Nicholas. James Bentley and Alakina Mann were ultimately cast in the roles. The role of Anne was scrutinized far greater than that of Nicholas because of the combustible relationship between the mother and daughter. The filmmakers wanted someone who’d be a strong contrast opposite Nicole Kidman and were prepared to search arduously for the right actor for the part.
A largely British cast, make up the remaining inhabitants of The Others. Future Doctor Who, Christopher Ecclestone took the short but impactful role of Charles Stewart, the Stewart family’s patriarch thought dead in the war. Irish actors Fionnula Flanagan and Elaine Cassidy took the roles of Mrs Mills & Lydia respectively. British comedy actor Eric Sykes found himself in the role of groundskeeper Edmund Tuttle. After being pursued on the recommendation of Kidman who had watched a number of stage performances Sykes had been a part of, she thought him perfect for the role. Mutually a fan of Kidman’s work, Sykes happily took the part.
A Chilling Success Story
The Others earned over $200 million worldwide. This not only made it one of the highest grossing horror movies of all time but also the highest grossing Spanish film of all time. It enjoyed noteworthy success at the Spanish National film awards, it took home 7 gongs. It was the first film ever to receive the Best Film Award at the Goya’s with not a single word of Spanish spoken in it’s duration.
These were a remarkable set of achievements for a film that was so against type at the time of its release. It clearly showed, if anything, that traditional horror was very much alive and kicking. I re-watched The Others in preparation for writing this piece having not seen the film in a number of years. I must say, I had forgotten myself just how good The Others was. It is an exceptionally handled and measured ghost story. It retains its scares well nearly two decades after its release. Most films dull when we know what to expect, when we know their secrets and twists. Due to how well written, directed and performed The Others was, it retains a draw even to this day as one of the most impressive horrors of the early 21st century.
What do you think of The Others? Does this film still hold a special place in your heart after nearly 2 decades? Let us know what you think in the comments below, or over in our Horror Group on Facebook!