The Others (12)

Review by Jack Foley

A SURPRISE smash in America when it was released at the start of the autumn, Nicole Kidman's atmospheric and deeply old-fashioned chiller is a triumph of subtlety over flash visuals and random blood-letting; making this haunted house tale a truly unsettling cinema experience.

Set in the middle of nowhere on the island of Jersey, The Others finds Kidman's repressed mother, Grace, trying to look after her sick children - they are not allowed to be exposed to sunlight - while becoming increasingly aware of the presence of others lurking within the gloomy mansion they call home.

Together with a newly employed cleaning staff, Grace attempts to keep her children safe against increasingly desperate odds, so much so that her own sanity and qualities as a mother are called into question.

Directed by Alejandro Amenabar (who opted for this over Tom Cruise's Vanilla Sky), The Others may sound like your typical haunted house fare and its 12 certificate may suggest a tame experience, but don't be fooled. It is dark, creepy and, above all, frightening enough to keep viewers fixated. And while the Jeepers Creepers/Scream fanclub may be a little put off by the deliberate pacing and lack of recognisable stalker villain, those who like their horror to tap into the intellect as well as exercising those vocal chords will, no doubt, reap huge rewards.

For where The Others scores so highly is in its restrained use of chills, cranking up the tension rather than delivering fright after fright for the thrill ride generation. Its use of lighting is particularly effective, giving the house a presence all of its own and making it as much a character as the players themselves. And if some scenes evoke memories of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, then it won't come as a great surprise to find that Mr Cruise here serves as executive producer - he has clearly learnt from the master during his time with the late director while filming Eyes Wide Shut.

Kidman, also, shines strongly in the lead role, flitting effortlessly between scared mother and somewhat unhinged house owner. The actress seems to be on something of a roll at the moment, despite the much publicised split between herself and Mr Cruise, and again proves that - when given the right material - she can be counted among the elite of her current generation. And she is given excellent support by her on-screen children, most notably Alakina Mann, as Anne, who begins to start seeing and communicating with the people in the house - again evoking memories of the young child in The Shining.

A strong British supporting cast - including Eric Sykes and Christopher Ecclestone - is also worth noting and do much to heighten the suspense and general feeling of creepiness, while the resolution of the tale is suitably satisfying and even reminiscent of another, far more recent, chiller (although to reveal which one would be giving the ending away a little too much!).

With the Halloween season upon us, this is a suitably effecting chiller to make you want to turn the lights on at home. And it may also get you thinking when you're alone in the dark...