The Others (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

It's a good movie. It scores well at IMDb (tied for the 5th best of 2001 so far), and got 76% good reviews, but plenty of good films with good reviews die instantly at the box office, especially when they are arty and slow. The Others has surprised a lot of people with its solid mass-market appeal. It is a ghost story, but it is not sensational, has no gore, has almost no special effects, is basically a gothic psychological horror story in 1940's period costumes, is imbued with religious symbolism, and is paced oh-so-slowly.

The second half of the movie has plenty of creepy ghost-story atmosphere and a good payoff, but enjoying those pleasures will require you to stay awake through the first half, and that ain't going to be easy. 

The set-up phase includes some creepy details. Nicole Kidman and two little kids live in an old manor house (gothic architecture, no less!), and Kidman certainly has some unusual rules for the servants. Apparently, the children can be poisoned by the sun, so all the drapes must be closed at all times. Furthermore, there is a mysterious rule that no door may be opened unless the previous one is closed. Frankly, nobody can quite figure out that one. Even Kidman has a hard time explaining the logic behind it. Then there are the three mysterious servants who appeared out of nowhere, as if summoned. Of course, the central mystery is why they keep having some kind of contact with some special people who seem to share the house with them. A blind woman, a boy, some others. Kidman and the kids see them for a minute here, a minute there, and eventually suspect they are ghosts. That's the mystery.

The first half has all too many scenes with Kidman instructing the children on their catechism, discussions of hell and purgatory and limbo, and preparation for first communion. Kidman is devoutly religious, and the presence of the mysterious spirits challenges some of her theology. 

Do you have a friend who can never get to the point of a story - goes off on dozens of tangents about things you aren't interested it? Imagine that friend telling a campfire story, and you get the drift of how the first half plays out. Finally, one of your type-A friends says "get to the point", and it picks up. It is a good ghost story, stylish and creepy, and I was satisfied that I watched it, but it's not easy to make it through those first 45 minutes.


 Just for fun, here's how the 2001 films are doing so far. Films with no listed box are not in wide release. 


Film IMDb Box office (weeks)
Memento 8.9 $24m
Ghost World 8.5  
Moulin Rouge  8.3 $45
Shrek 8.3 $260m
Wit 8.1  
Jay and Silent Bob 8.1 $11m (1)
The Others 8.1 $46m (3)
Bridget Jones 7.6 $68
The Rat Race 7.5 $25m (2)
Made 7.4  
Enemy at the Gates 7.3 $47m
Rush Hour 2 7.3 $183m (4)
American Pie 2 7.3 $109m (3)
The Score 7.2 $67m

still in theaters, no DVD

The year's overall champ, combining great reviews and spectacular box office, is obviously Shrek. 

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 2.5/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 76% positive overall, 58% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 8.1!
  • With their dollars ... it has been a surprising hit for a film with such a slow pace. It has grossed $46 million as I write this. Budget $17 million
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Very good film of its type, but will seem boring if you are not a devotee of meticulously crafted atmosphere pieces.

Return to the Movie House home page