The Others is stylish, atmospheric fun with a surprisingly deep foundation. It begins like a ghost story for children and quickly takes on all the ingredients of a good gothic thriller: creepy old manor, pale young heroine, mysterious servants who know things. And fog. Lots of fog. In this case, the manor is situated in the Jersey Islands, where Grace (Nicole Kidman) waits with her two children for her husband to return from war. What at first seems like a whole lot of opening and shutting of doors turns out to be medical necessity: the children, Anna and Nicholas, are photosensitive. They can't be exposed to any light brighter than a hurricane lamp. Grace literally runs her home like a ship -- a tight ship -- and she's almost as frightening here as she was in Gus Van Sant's To Die For, where she played a very different sort of beautiful control freak. As obsessed as she is with their religious training and with the proper sequence of opening the house's doors, it's not surprising that the servants have run away and the children have pinched little expressions and quarrelsome ways. When three new servants show up one morning, Grace gets some much-needed help around the house as well as a whole new set of troubles.
The DVD is a two-disc set, and while the second disc has some cool stuff -- including a "Making Of" featurette and a documentary track on a real family living with Xeroderma Pigmentosum -- it also seems rather superfluous. The sections with the director, 29-year-old Alejandro Amenabar (who also directed Open Your Eyes, the Spanish version of Vanilla Sky) are the most interesting thing here, especially when he talks about composing the music for the film. Unfortunately the featurette as a whole is a bit self-congratulatory. If the movie has done its job, the audience doesn't need a bunch of fluffy Nicole Kidman sound bites to explain that the film they've just seen is pretty incredible.
Also, in terms of the film as a whole, comparisons have inevitably been made to The Sixth Sense, but this feels like a very different film. There are no heroes here so much as very flawed, troubled people trying to hold it together in isolation. Much has been made of the fact that in both films, the fear is not driven by violence or gore so much as psychological creepiness. In The Others, if anything the fright factor is amped up a notch or two.