Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Others Blu-ray Review

The 10th anniversary of Miramax's compelling thriller The Others has finally made its HD debut on Blu-ray Disc.  Presented for the very first time in 1080P High Definition and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, this chilling horror film stars Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours), Emmy winner Fionnula Flanagan (Four Brothers) and Christopher Eccleston (TV's "Heroes"). Written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar (The Sea Inside), audiences are presented with the story of two photosensitive children and their mother, who believes that her family home is haunted.  The film earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama) for Nicole Kidman.  While waiting for her husband to return from the Second World War, Grace Stewart (Kidman) retires with her photosensitive children to a mansion.  The children have a disease in which they cannot be touched by direct sunlight without being hurt in some way.  They live alone there with oppressive, strange and almost religious rules, until Grace needs to hire a group of servants for them.  After the servants enter the home, strange events start to occur, and Grace begins to wonder if it's her sanity getting the better of her or if there is something in the house with them.

Film (5 out of 5 stars)

The Others is a throwback to the haunted house movies of the past and is a refreshing change from what passes as the modern equivalent.  Set not long after the end of World War II in a large house in the English countryside, a young woman and her two children are completely cut off from the outside world.  Grace (Nicole Kidman) has isolated herself and her children because they are allergic to sunshine.  The two children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley) suffer from a rare disease that where they have to avoid sunshine which can possibly kill them, so their daily routine involves a bunch of complex rules that they have to live by, which includes locking each door before opening another and the curtains must be closed constantly.

When the servants of the house mysteriously leave, Grace is left in the lurch until three strangers show up at her door looking for work.  The three visitors include an elderly nanny named Mrs. Bertha Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), an old gardener named Mr. Edmund Tuttle (Eric Sykes), and a young mute girl named Lydia (Elaine Cassidy).  The three claim to have worked in the house years before and appear to have knowledge of the house and its layout.  Since she lost her husband during the war, Grace has little choice but to hire the strangers despite their curiously sudden appearance.

It's not long before spooky things start happening in the house.  First Grace's daughter Anne starts drawing pictures of four people that include a man, a woman, an old woman, and a boy named Victor, all of whom she claims to have seen in the house.  Piano music begins playing in unoccupied rooms and doors slam for no reason and before long, Grace finds a Book of the Dead that contains pictures of people after they died. Between all of the strange happenings and her daughter's assertion that there are ghosts in the house, Grace finally starts believing it herself. Now terrified that she is losing her mind, Grace gets more desperate and frustrated with her children and the servants and runs out of the house to summon a priest to remove the evil spirits from the house.

Grace is soon lost in a veil of fog that surrounds the house and completely loses her bearings until she miraculously discovers her long missing husband Charles (Christopher Eccleston) who she thought had been killed in the war.  Charles seems to be disoriented and distant when finally she brings him back to the house.  Charles soon tells Grace that he is leaving to "return to the front," which only makes Grace even more frantic.  All of these occurrences are disconcerting to an initially dismissive Grace, until her daughter appears to change into an old woman after she turns away from her for a second.  Seeing an old woman wearing her daughter's new dress, Grace attacks her only to discover that it actually is her daughter. 

Grace soon learns that nothing is at it seems and the revelations are truly startling.  This movie has a fantastic plot twist at the end much like The Sixth Sense and it's done well.  This is one of Nicole Kidman's finest roles and its one that requires a lot of her.  Her character has to keep us guessing throughout the movie as her sanity is always in question.  Combined with some creepy and well done performances from the rest of the cast, this movie is a lot of fun to watch.

Video (4 out of 5 stars)

This 1080p transfer (1.78:1) is pretty good especially since most of the film is shrouded in darkness and fog.  Compared to the previous DVD release, this looks really good but it could have been even better.  Detail is pretty good when there's enough light for it to be seen and that also applies to the colors which are fairly scarce.  Black levels are pretty good but they are so prevalent in this movie that there's a lot of crush too.  Overall, I'm much happier with the Blu-ray's quality over the DVD's and for a movie like this one, it's worth the upgrade.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)

This lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also very good and it does an admirable job in helping to create the atmosphere of the movie.  This isn't an in your face kind of sound mix, but instead it subtly works it's magic on you and occasionally scares you out of the blue.  Dialogue is crystal clear and easily understood and the music and effects are well balanced with the rest of the mix.

Special Features (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)

There isn't a whole lot of extras on here which is disappointing and the ones that are here are in standard definition which is even worse.
  • Xeroderma Pigmentosum: What Is It? The Story of a Family Dealing with the Disease - A look at the Mahar family, whose daughter is one of the few people in the world that has the disease that was depicted in the film which results in her being allergic to light.
  • A Look Inside The Others - This almost 22 minute featurette allows us to hear from the cast and crew of the film including: Nicole Kidman, Alejandro Amenábar, Paula Wagner, and Tom Cruise who was a co-producer on the film.  This is the best extra on the disc and I thought it was interesting.
  • Visual Effects Piece - A short look at the visual effects used in the film with a split screen.
  • An Intimate Look at Director Alejandro Amenábar - A look behind the scenes to observe the writer/director as he shoots the film and directs the actors.  It's fairly short but it's worth watching to see his style and his vision.
  • Theatrical Trailer

Final Thoughts (4 out of 5 stars)

Spooky and atmospheric without being gratuitously gory, this is a perfect movie to watch on Halloween.  I wish more movies were made like this since it's more of a long Twilight Zone episode than the crappy slasher/torture porn movies we are stuck with today.  If you haven't see this yet, you should wait for a rainy night and make some popcorn and enjoy this old-fashioned spooky thriller!

Order your copy today!

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