The Others (2001) – Alejandro Amenabar

othersThe 101 Horror Movies list is coming to an end, there’s like 8 left, 7 now! But not to fret, I was tended to during Christmas, and very shortly while the 101 Sci-Fi Movies list continues, we’ll be adding the 101 Action Movies to the rotation, as well as a slew of films from the book Great Movies – 101 Years of Film.

I quite enjoyed re-watching The Others from writer/director Alejandro Amenabar (who also did the music incidentally) and starring the lovely Nicole Kidman.

Whether you’re watching the film for the first time, or the 12th, the film works. Even knowing the entire story, which allows you to watch it from a while new angle, it’s still incredibly creepy, once more showing that substance trumps style, and that a good ole haunted house story, if done right, can still be frightening.

It’s 1945 on the Island of Jersey in a fog-enshrouded mansion. Kidman, who always pulls off the era’s styles to lovely effect plays Grace Stewart, looking after her two children Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley), while awaiting the return of her husband Charles (Doctor Who no. 10 – Christopher Eccleston) from the war. Attended to by three servants, Bertha Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes) and Lydia (Elain Cassidy), the family is beseiged by strange and unusual events.

kidsIt’s a spooky and atmospheric ghost story made the more haunting by the children’s condition, they have a rare skin disorder that keeps the children in the dark, literally, and requires the locking of each and every door in the house as characters pass through them to keep the children safe.

There are some very creepy moments in the film, Anne’s insistence that there are others in the house with them, including a rather frightening looking old woman (Renee Asherson) who asks her all kinds of questions, Nicholas’ scare when Anne tells the boy she can see to touch his cheek, Grace wandering into a room with everything draped in sheets, and all of them seem frighteningly human in shape.

The film balances its creeps with character development (an oft over-looked trait of modern horror films) making you care about the characters, and then by extension what happens to them.  Almost the entire film is confined to this mansion, giving it an almost claustrophobic feeling, with only the briefest excursions outside onto the grounds, which has a chilling moment that implies that the help knows more about what is going on in the house than they’ve revealed…

spookyWhen Charles arrives at home, Grace believes things will return to the way things were, but learns quickly that there is something wrong with him, and their relationship grinds to a halt as he keeps himself bed-ridden until he decides to leave them, alone, in the lone house in the fog. And there’s a terrifying hint at something that may have happened when Grace chastises Anne, and says, in tight close-up “Stop breathing!”

Mrs. Mills advises little Anne, that her mother won’t see anything until she’s ready to accept that something is actually going on, a moment that comes when she finally comes across the Old Woman, dressed as, and speaking with, her daughter’s voice. Creepy!

Before he leaves Charles confronts Grace about what happened That Day, and we’re given hints again of some terrible tragedy. The children refer to it as the day she went mad.

The revelations, when they come are heartbreaking, we learn why Charles has to leave, and can’t stay, we learn what happened That Day, and we learn who the Others really are.

It’s a lovely, creepy, and moody haunted house story that is gorgeously shot, and has fantastic performances, as well as some truly spooky moments.

Did you see it?

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Alcatraz

So I’m catching up… again. I tend to focus on one show at a time though, so I’m not really apologizing, It also means I get a whole bunch of episodes to watch at once as I catch up.

Apparently I have waited long enough for Alcatraz.

I settled in, and flew through the first 3 episodes as quickly as I could load them up, and while I am not necessarily hooked yet, I’m definitely very intrigued…

Course barring Felicity, and Alias (though I did watch all of it), I tend to be a huge J.J. Abrams fan. Now yes, he only serves as an executive producer on the series, but for the most part he and I seem to like the same things…

The premise is this, it’s commonly believed that Alcatraz closed, and shipped all of the inmates off the island. Well in this series, that didn’t happen, in fact, 260 inmates vanished, along with 43 prison employees.

Flash forward to the present. Somehow, some of these people have slowly started to reappear, not aged a day since their disappearance, and all of them more than eager to resume their criminal activities.

As of yet, we don’t know who caused this incident, how they brought them forward through time, or for what purpose…

But a small team, established in a sub-sub-basement of Alcatraz, are looking to recapture them, while trying to figure out these bigger mysteries.

So it’s a police procedural with a healthy dose of ‘huh’ added to it with the over arcing mystery of what happened on Alcatraz March 21, 1963.

Leading this team, is the always awesome, Sam Neill as former Alcatraz employee Emerson Hauser.

I’ve honestly been a fan of his since he first menaced the Nazarene in The Omen III when he played the full-grown son of Satan, Damien.

My favorite performances of his would still be in Dead Calm, opposite Nicole Kidman, and of course as Dr. Alan Grant in the Jurassic Park films.

To me, Sam is just cool, and watching how his story interweaves with the disappearance of the people from Alcatraz is intriguing, as we learn that he was on the island, but must have left before the incident, because his character has aged. But we also know he’s been on the island waiting for their return for a long time.

He recruits a local homicide cop, Rebecca Madsen, who may be more involved with the prison’s history than she knew.

First off, where has Sarah Jones been hiding, cause what a cutie! Sue and I have talked about her, and she seems like a cross between Haven’s Audrey Parker (Emily Rose) and with her short hair and occasional attitude, Galactica’s Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff).

Against Emerson’s orders she begins tracking down one of the first of the 63s. This of course shows him that he can use her on his own team, and co-opts her into his program.

Rebecca begins to learn more about the 63s, and her own family history when it comes to Alcatraz. But first and foremost she’s a cop, and her job is to track down these criminals. The first 3 were pretty vicious, a murderer, a sniper, and a child-killer. I’ll be interested to see just how dark the series wants to go, because the child-killer one went pretty dark.

Rebecca brings with her an odd partner, one she co-opted from, of all places, a comic book store.

Dr. Diego Soto, played by Lost alumnus Jorge Garcia has done his research on Alcatraz, he’s written books on the subject, there is nothing he doesn’t know about it. Except for the fact that 260 inmates disappeared.

But he knows there names, their crimes, and their motivations.

Now, we’re only a short way into the first season, so the series is still trying to find it’s feet, and define itself, so I’m not going to make any harsh judgments yet.

I like the fact that they aren’t giving us everything at once, we know that there are more characters out there who may know more than us, or maybe they don’t. We know that there is something truly odd going on here, but I don’t want it revealed anytime soon. I like the mythology they are building up around the show, and as long as they have a destination in mind, and aren’t making it up as they go along, then for now… I am quite willing to join their investigations.