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Featured Blu-ray Review: The Others

September 19th, 2011

The Others - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

The Others came out ten years ago and at the time of its release, it wasn't expected to be a huge hit. It only costs $17 million to make, the distributor spent just $10 million on prints and advertising, while it opened in just 1,678 theaters. It opened in a distant fourth place and didn't even have the highest per theater average in the top ten. However, what it had was legs. It remained in the top five for close to two months, while it finished with a total of $96 million domestically, and over $200 million worldwide.

The Movie

The film takes place at the end of World War II in the English countryside. Grace Stewart lives in a remote manor with her two kids, Anne and Nicholas. The film begins with Grace welcoming the new staff, as the old staff simply vanished a week ago. Mrs. Bertha Mills is the new housekeeper, Mr. Edmund Tuttle will be taking over the gardening, while the mute Lydia is the maid. It has not been a happy household since Grace's husband, Charles, died in the war. Also, the isolation and taking care of two sick children has taken its tole on Grace. Anne and Nicholas have Xeroderma pigmentosum, which causes them to be incredibly sensitive to sunlight and must stay away from the windows, and indeed any light brighter than candlelight.

It isn't long before Grace starts noticing odd things and starts to suspect there's something wrong. For instance, the new servants arrived before the notice to the newspaper was picked up by the postman. Bertha Mills explains that by saying they had previously worked there and came by just to see if there was any work, because they knew the manor house so well. Anne begins to draw pictures of a family she claims to have seen in the house. Grace hears noises she can't explain. While Anne talks of ghosts living in the house, Grace refuses to believe her, and even punishes her for her claims. But that changes when Grace hears something as well. But what did she hear?

That's about all I'm comfortable talking about without going way too far into spoiler territory. The Others is nominally a horror film, but I'm not sure that's quite the right genre. It's more suspenseful that outright scary. The filmmakers did an excellent job at creating and maintaining the mood. For a long time there are many unanswered questions about the true nature of what is happening in the manor house. The acting is top notch, and Nicole Kidman earned a number of award nominations around the world for her performance, including a Golden Globe and a Goya. In fact, the film was the big winner of the Goya Awards that year, winning eight of the fifteen nominations it earned. Fionnula Flanagan and the two child actors, Alakina Mann and James Bentley, are also incredible in the movie. (That's not to say the others are bad, but their roles are far shorter.)

Plus, the film has one of the best surprise twists of the past decade, which I won't even hint at here.

The Extras

We do have some bad news about the Blu-ray, it is shovelware and there's not a ton of extras. Things start with a 22-minute making of featurette that is mostly talking heads and clips from the movie, plus a bit of behind-the-scenes footage. Visual Effects Pieces shows various shots in various stages of effect production. There's no narration, just soothing music, so that limits the information value. There's a nine-minute featurette on Xeroderma pigmentosum and it includes interviews with real life sufferers. Finally, there's an eight-minute look at the writer / director, Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar, that includes more behind-the-scenes footage than the making of featurette.

The Blu-rays video and audio quality is not great, but that's to be expected for a film that cost just $17 million to make ten years ago. There's not a lot of fine details, while the shadows tend to make the situation worse. And there are a lot of shadows. The colors tend to be muted, but this is also a stylistic choice of the filmmakers. I didn't see any compression issues while there were very few flecks or other examples of print damage. It looks a lot better than it did on DVD, but this is not a great looking Blu-ray. The audio is clear with good use of surround sound speakers during the creepier moments. Just as the film is often very dark, it is also often very quiet, so sometimes there's quite an sudden increase in volume.

As for the price, it costs just $9.99. That's a great price, even for shovelware.

The Verdict

Given the production budget of The Others, it was never going to be demonstration level material on high definition. The Blu-ray is a just up in terms of audio and video quality when compared to the DVD, while it costs a tiny amount, even compared to most other shovelware release. It's worth the upgrade.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Others