This is definitely one of those movies I remember liking right from the get-go, but also remember a LOT of people not liking it, and perhaps taking me for some kind of nut for thinking it was good. Quite honestly though, I haven't given it a second watch until this particular viewing, so going into this, I did wonder if my mind would change. But it didn't at all. In fact, I think I grew to appreciate it, even more, this time around, and I don't just speak of the twist ending that seems to have people either coming or going with this title. But more on that, shortly. The truth of the matter is, I think this could become a new, at least semi-annual Halloween watch for yours truly.
We open in barely post-WWII, 1945 where Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) is seen having a dreadful nightmare, awakening with a start. She and her two extremely photosensitive children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley) reside in an out-of-the-way country home on the beautiful island of Jersey (I speak from personal experience!) in the Channel Islands. Three new servants have been hired to tend to the house; housekeeper Bertha Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), gardener, Edmund Tuttle (Eric Sykes) and a mute girl named Lydia (Elaine Cassidy) who... actually I don't really know what her job is, but she's there too. Anyway, it's not long before Grace begins hearing strange voices and strange things start occurring, leading Grace to believe there's some "others" around.
Now, anyone who has seen this already knows the twist ending, and I daresay a lot of "others" who haven't seen it even know. But still, no spoilers. That said, it really is the way this ends that puts that cherry on top of the otherwise creep-fest of a sundae. It's interesting to note that back in 2001 when I first saw it, I kind of just took it as a rather enjoyable ghost movie and moved on. Now that I've seen it again, I have to give it up for the atmosphere of the film. The childrens' photosensitivity leads to the house constantly having to block out the sun. The idea of the overprotective mother also puts an uneasy feeling in my stomach - as in, she doesn't let these kids go anywhere or do anything. They're inside, safe and sound from anything that can harm them.
I should probably add that the two child actors here are actually pretty great. They both do fear and other genuine emotions quite well, and it's very easy to buy that they're siblings. The only thing is, sometimes it's only the siblings you can actually hear. My one complaint about the film is that it's so quiet in so many parts! I ended up almost missing a bunch of dialogue along the way. Otherwise, though, I really do enjoy this story. It's a great tale for Halloween time, and it's ultimately pretty original (although I will say there was a certain other famous ghost movie that ended similarly out at this point). There's a real creepy suspense to the film all throughout, and the way the camera plays with shadows and lighting is hauntingly beautiful.
So, I understand at the time a lot of my peers giving this one a cold shoulder, but I highly recommend giving it a second viewing! This is one of those movies that demands you curl up on your couch in a blanket with all the lights in the house off. It does a good job of gently tugging at your nerves with its suspense and build-up, and there's a lot of this house in the dark that I'd be weary about sneaking around in at night time. Even the house, itself looks haunted, and the post WWII era aspect really adds to that, because WWII is one thing that always springs to mind when I think of ghosts who may very well exist on some plane. Anyway, definitely check this one out this year before Halloween hits. It's a great campfire tale that, at least in my opinion, goes underappreciated.
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