Light burns and darkness shrouds in Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others, a dollhouse thriller that dares to challenge The Sixth Sense as the definitive comment on ghostly insecurity. Fans of M. Night Shyamalan’s spooker may or may not spot Amenábar’s pony within the film’s first hour but there are enough red herrings in this tale to subvert anyone’s expectations. Gone are the humanitarian missions of cross-dimensional souls. Instead, Amenábar plants post-war solitude and dying religiosity before a backdrop of ghoulish shadows and claustrophobic mists. The icy Grace (Nicole Kidman) wallows in bemused torment within the walls of her labyrinthine Victorian mansion, protecting her photosensitive children from the sunlight that seeps through curtain-covered windows. Her servants have vanished without notice, leaving Grace to seek out more dependable help, which comes in the form of three wanderers: motherly housekeeper Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), elderly gardener Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes) and young mute Lydia (Elaine Cassidy). From the onset, Grace makes the most stringent demands, prime of which is that any door leading into a room be locked before a door leading out of the same room is opened. Grace’s husband (Christopher Eccleston) has never returned from the war and, as a result, she becomes emotionally isolated inside the home. But there are visitors in the house, witnessed by Grace’s daughter Anne (Alakina Mann). Amenábar’s doors close with chilling precision while paintings seemingly hint at impending dooms. Invisible hands strike piano keys but evidence of intruders is nowhere to be found. Grace walks on the grounds outside the home and, in the film’s most spine-tingling scenario, finds herself encapsulated within a fog-filled forest, only to be greeted by her long-lost husband. Amenábar’s dioramic eye recalls the most claustrophobic and frilliest of Poe tales, his religious concerns grounded in a Latin perspective that is always mindful of the journey the soul must make from the physical hereness to an insecure otherness. However unavoidable the film’s final revelation may be, it still goes remarkably hand-in-hand with everything that transpires prior. Amenábar is as mindful of religion and spiritual turmoils as he is a doubting Thomas. Most fabulously, each character’s hesitant or steadfast relationship to God seemingly informs their awareness of their immediate surroundings. The Others and its view of limbo evokes a hierarchically-informed spirit world, where chaos and acceptance must is par for course on one’s way to supreme enlightenment. It’s also pretty scary.
Buena Vista presents The Others in its original 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film’s high-contrast, darker scenes are incredibly sharp and wonderful to look at. And while the grain of the film’s more vibrant scenes is consistent with that of the film’s night scenes, the day sequences are perhaps too vibrant. Though free of bleeding, the visual palette becomes almost grotesquely colorful when the film shifts from night to day. The film’s English 5.1 Dolby surround track delicately preserves the subtle intricacies of the film’s eerie sound design. There’s no alternate DTS track but this is nonetheless one of the more rich-sounding audio transfers around.
Seeing as this Dimension Collector’s Series edition of The Others is lightweight in the extras department, there really is no need for the two-disc packaging. The Sneak Peeks section contains a promo for the film’s soundtrack and separate spots for Dimension and Miramax DVD releases. This throwaway promotional extra is notable because one awkward edit within the Miramax Movies to Remember section unintentionally and hysterically suggests that Shakespeare in Love was nominated for 148 Academy Awards. Though the design of the disc’s interactive menus is beautifully simple, the accompanying music track is tragically saccharine. An Intimate Look At Director Alejandro Amenábar lacks structure and while this piece says nothing about his directing style, it does come replete with some nifty behind-the-scenes footage. While the disc’s Visual Effects Piece may be overly complex, its design and presentation is highly sophisticated. The most intriguing feature is "Xeroderma Pigmentosum": What Is It? The Story Of A Family Dealing With the Disease Portrayed in The Others. The disease is so rare that there are less than 200 documented cases in the United States. The featurette provides background on the disease as well as a humbling glimpse inside a home where a young girl suffers from the disease. Every year, the girl’s family brings children afflicted with "XP" from all over the world to the United States for an event they’ve dubbed Camp Sundown. Also included on this DVD edition of The Others is a still gallery, a theatrical trailer and a making-of documentary that exposes Amenábar’s passion for his musical score and his obsession with Nicole Kidman’s piercing eyes.
Buena Vista’s The Others DVD lacks meat for a two-disc set, but who cares when the film looks, sounds, and haunts this good?