It’s spooky month! So it’s time for a spooky movie, and what better way to kick things off than with the new multi-format release of Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others from 2001. It’s a truly multicultural film, starring an Australian woman playing an English woman. It was written and directed by a Spaniard, backed by Americans, set on the isle of Jersey but filmed in Spain. So does this melting pot of nationalities and cultures succeed at capturing the atmosphere of the dark, dreary post-WWII English countryside?
We open on a dark, gloomy manor surrounded by a dark, gloomy (and also foggy) wood. This huge house appears to have only three residents. There are the two children – Nicholas (James Bentley – Imperium: Nero, The Defenders) and Anne (Alakina Mann – Girl with a Pearl Earring, Fungus the Bogeyman) – along with their mother Grace (Nicole Kidman – Moulin Rouge, Cold Mountain). They do have a father, Charles (Christopher Eccleston – Fortitude, Dr Who), but all we really know about him is that he went off to war and the family are still waiting and hoping that he will return.
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The children suffer from a disease called Xeroderma Pigmentosum, which is an extreme sensitivity to sunlight. Their world is the manor, and they can only move from one darkened room to another after the curtains have been drawn, or at night, to make sure that they are not hurt by the sun. Grace is quite obsessed with making sure that doors in the house are only opened after the prior door has been closed.
Into their isolated little world come three individuals looking to serve as staff in the house. The housekeeper, Mrs Mills (Fionnula Flanagan – The Guard, Waking Ned), her helper, Lydia (Elaine Cassidy – Disco Pigs, The Wonder), and the groundskeeper Mr Tuttle (Eric Sykes – The Plank, Rhubarb Rhubarb) – but are these helpful folks all they appear to be? Do they have plans and schemes of their own about the family and the house? And who are the mysterious intruders who keep running around and opening doors when nobody is looking? Are these all just the delusions of a woman driven past the point of bearing or is there something truly otherworldly going on in the shadowy corners of this old manor?
This film wouldn’t work without the talent of the main cast, and each and every one of them delivers a stellar performance, from the bickering siblings to the increasingly fraught and desperate Grace, to the all-too-knowing helpers, as the tension and disquiet ratchets up slowly but surely until the final, glorious reveal of just what has been going on in this isolated house.
The new 4K restoration from Studiocanal is a treat to look at, and comes with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack for those with the proper kit to take advantage of it. It looks and sounds wonderful for a 20+ year old film, really capturing the gloomy, oppressive atmosphere of the house and grounds. It’s got a decent selection of special features. None of them are what you might describe as essential viewing, but they’re interesting to watch all the same. No commentary tracks on offer here, instead there’s a selection of behind the scenes featurettes. Some of these were included on previous releases, but there are two new ones for this re-release.
‘Looking Back At The Others’ and ‘The Music of The Others’ are the new offerings, and they feature conversations with the director going over the making of the film and its music. In a similar vein is ‘An Intimate Look at Director Alejandro Amenábar’ which is a profile of the writer/director, showing him on set and working with the cast.
There’s also the behind-the-scenes ‘A Look Inside The Others’ and a quite interesting featurette called ‘Visual effects piece’ which looks at how they created the fog-bound landscape among other effects. ‘Xeroderma Pigmentosum: What Is It?’ is a look at the disease the children suffer from, talking with parents and children who suffer from the disease in real life. Rounding things off is the usual stills gallery and a theatrical trailer that feels like it was put together for a TV movie rather than a cinema release.
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So is this a worthy upgrade for those who bought the original? It’s a hard sell. The new transfer looks good, but the original isn’t a bad offering by any stretch. There are a couple of new special features, but nothing that you need to see. The new version comes with new artwork as well but it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any sort of limited edition release with additional material. If you don’t own this film, then either the new UHD or Blu-ray release is well worth grabbing for your collection, but for those who already own the 2011 version? You’re not missing too much by not rushing out to buy this one.