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Remember This Scene?: 'The Others'

Jeremy Fuster |
October 31, 2013 | 6:26 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Nicole Kidman in "The Others" (StudioCanal).
Nicole Kidman in "The Others" (StudioCanal).

Each week, Jeremy Fuster analyzes a critical scene from a popular film. Join him as he delves into what exactly makes these critical scenes so memorable and successful.

When it comes to horror films, I'm not a prude. I can handle more than a bit of gore. The "Evil Dead" remake was incredibly disgusting in a fun way, replacing the low budget charm of the original with terrifying blockbuster abominations. Peter Jackson wouldn't have made a trilogy that bagged a combined 30 Oscars if he hadn't cut his teeth working on "Braindead," the goriest film in the history of cinema. It's a putrid, juvenile film that requires massive amounts of brain bleach and a strong stomach to sit through. It's also hilarious, engrossing, and the most audacious attempt at bad taste attempt by a director not named John Waters.

But sometimes I feel like many filmmakers have lost an appreciation for some of the older practices of horror. The ones that don't require constant jump scares and a makeup artist with industrial-sized tubs of corn syrup and red food coloring. The best kind of horror is the one that simply kicks your brain into fear mode and lets your imagination do the rest. The camera zooms in on the victim's face, the tense music suddenly turns into silence, you are bracing for a jump scare to burst in at any moment…but it never comes.

That's why this Halloween, I'm turning the clock back to 2001 and watching my favorite horror film of this century: "The Others," a.k.a. "Los Otros." Starring Nicole Kidman and a pre-"Doctor Who" Christopher Eccleston, this film was made by a Spanish production team directed by Alejandro Amenabar and won eight Goya awards (Spanish Oscars), including Best Film. 

Kidman plays a widow of a WWII soldier who takes care of her two children on their massive British estate. The children suffer from a rare condition that makes sunlight fatal to them. When three servants arrive to help Kidman take care of the kids, a series of strange events occur, including thick fog, strange voices and noises in the night, and the shocking return of Kidman's husband, played by Eccleston. The ending is one of the most famous in horror movie history, and the path to that ending is filled with shocking reveals and tense moments that draw their frights from the horror films of old. 

I can't show many of the really creepy and memorable moments because doing so would drop major spoilers. But to show you the effectiveness of "The Others," look at this scene where Kidman begins investigating some of the strange noises.

At the start of the scene, everything is set up for a jump scare. The colors are muted, the music escalates to a frantic pace, and the camera zooms in on Kidman's face as she shows the incredible fearful expressions that make her so brilliant in this film. The quick camera pan around Kidman. She is surrounded by objects covered in blankets, and one would expect that one of those blankets would hold a ghastly monster ready to jump out and yell "BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA!"

Nope, the closest thing we get to that is a door mysteriously closing behind Kidman after she pulls all the blankets off. What is left is a scene with a protagonist shot with tight, claustrophobic framing that conveys the helplessness that Kidman is feeling as she tries to find the strange menace threatening her children that she can't see but always seems to be just behind her. This scene also foreshadows an even scarier scene involving a blanket, the infamous "I am your daughter" scene. That scene too does not end in a jump scare or anything closer to an explanation. We are left in the dark just as much as Kidman, wondering what is going on and what is going to happen. By letting us stew in that fear of the unknown and allowing our imaginations to run wild with the scary possibilities, "The Others" beats out all the horror films that are just anxious to get past the tense anticipation and get to the gory goods. 

Happy Halloween.

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