You don’t need fancy special effects to scare an audience. That’s what Alejandro Amenábar’s 2001 film The Others mostly succeeded instilling in audiences with a stately chiller starring Nicole Kidman. The Criterion Collection brings The Others to 4K Ultra HD with a brand-new 4K restoration (sans HDR) that shows off all the gorgeous production design and candlelit lighting. A nice collection of newly produced supplements, including interviews with cast and crew, have been included to round out this Recommended release!
Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others instantly recalls Spanish gothic horror, so it should come as no surprise that the film was partially filmed in Spain to achieve that exact look. However, the histrionics and crazed plotting take a backseat in The Others, as it opts for a much more languid pace free of overly convoluted thriller plotting. Such an approach speaks to the film’s successes in atmosphere and failures in storytelling, but more on that later.
The conceit of The Others is rather simple: Nicole Kidman lords over a capacious estate with secrets to hide. As the story progresses, Kidman’s matriarch is slowly whittled down by the spooky happenings in her home, and it doesn’t help that her two light-sensitive children are a bit creepy on their own. The haunted house machinations that The Others deals so heavily give Amenábar the opportunity to make something unique to most of Hollywood at the time of its release. This thriller deals in atmosphere and trusts that its story is only deepened by its beautifully rendered setting.
The Others follows Grace Stewart (Kidman), a woman residing in a remote country house on an English Channel Island formerly occupied by Germans. Her two photosensitive children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley), start to see a young boy named Victor, his parents, and an elderly blind woman at random times in the house. Grace dismisses the happenings as outright falsehoods until the new servants make Grace privy to the dark history of the house.
It’s so funny to look back on the early 2000s and find a ton of dramas and thrillers all dealing with one very, very popular trope in Hollywood at the time: the twist ending. You look at something like M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village or Signs, or even Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko, and you get stories that are supplanted and enriched by these left-field twists. In The Others, it’s not that the twist doesn’t land, it’s that I think the storytelling is unfairly reserved and spare for what it’s trying to do. The opinion will naturally change depending on who you ask, but as someone who has watched plenty of gothic horror and thrillers that The Others apes from, I can confidently state that it doesn’t do itself any favors by saddling Nicole Kidman with the deep, unspoken pain of the story that gets revealed later on. Her histrionics are just not aligned well with the rest of the production.
That isn’t to say that The Others isn’t successful in being a spooky good time, because it is! But when you have a film of this sort that relies on a huge twist to give the proceedings the needed emotional heft, the spooky happenings can often just feel like window dressing instead of something that’s reflective of the inner turmoil that Kidman’s character is feeling at the time. If it’s a technical puzzle that the audience needs to solve, then it has a beginner’s difficult. That being said, Amenábar’s mastery of old-school horror movements -- reverse cuts, swift tracking shots, clanging cellos, etc. – make for a very fun time.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
The Others hits 4K Ultra HD with a two-disc (UHD100 for the 4K discs and BD50 for the standard Blu-ray) release from Criterion that comes in their standard Scanavo case with an attached essay booklet. Both discs boot up to standard menu screens with options to play the film, set up audio, select chapters and browse special features.
Alright, before we get into the nitty gritty of this overall pleasing 2160p presentation, some slightly disappointing news: this new presentation from the 4K restoration utilizes the BT.709 color space rather than the BT.2020 standard used for 4K content. The result may not mean much to you, but that means this disc can’t utilize the wide color gamut available with the BT.2020 color space container. That may be a filmmaker choice, as this presentation lacks HDR to begin with, but it’s a rather puzzling choice given the upgraded resolution afforded by 4K Ultra HD.
This new HEVC-encoded 2160p presentation from Criterion is sourced from a new 4K restoration of the original 35mm camera negative. Alejandro Amenábar wanted to utilize as many natural lighting conditions as possible on this production, and you can see that immediately with this pleasing presentation boasting a very healthy layer of grain and very good contrast levels. The palette overall is cooler and blue, which seems to be honored in this new presentation. Black levels are good, but I can’t comment on that without thinking about how HDR could make those blacks truly inky and deep. For a film so obsessed with how darkness and shadows cascade around flesh tones, it doesn’t make much sense why HDR and the wider color gamut weren’t employed here. Again, probably a filmmaker's choice since Amenábar had a very specific vision for the look of the film, though I don’t see how the addition of HDR could do anything but add depth to the stately look.
Film grain does drop out a bit during the foggier sequences. Probably due to the digital fog used in certain moments, but that softness isn’t inherent across the presentation. Some optical effects thicken grain for brief moments, otherwise this is a very healthy and smooth presentation. The source looks to be in good condition as well, with only a few moments of specks and damage to be found throughout. Despite the lack of HDR and the wider color gamut used for 4K content, this is an appreciable upgrade over previous Blu-ray presentations.
Now, for some really great news! The Dolby Atmos track included on this release employs the film’s dynamic soundscape wonderfully, switching from whisper-quiet to loud at a moment’s notice. I found a lot of sound effects traveling across the surround channels, like the stomping of feet being enhanced by Dolby Atmos’ upfiring technology. No hiss could be heard, and the source sounds remarkably clean. You’re sure to give your system a workout with this track, although much of the film is very quiet and delivered through hushed dialogue.
As for special features, there’s a couple of newly produced featurettes that break down the production of the film with words directly from Alejandro Amenábar. In particular, the new 51-minute “A Look Back at The Others” is really pleasing and includes interviews with both Nicole Kidman and Christopher Eccleston. Fans of The Others will find much to enjoy here, plus there’s a good grab bag of archival featurettes to enjoy. To my eyes, it looks like the Criterion edition offers an exclusive conversation with critic Pau Gómez that the StudioCanal UK release does not have.
Disc 1: 4K Blu-ray
Disc 2: Standard Blu-ray
Nicole Kidman shakes and screams at children in The Others, a stately 2001 chiller now upgraded to 4K Ultra HD courtesy of Criterion. The new 4K Blu-ray release offers a beautiful new transfer of the film, plus a good selection of newly produced and archival featurettes for fans to enjoy. While the new transfer lacks HDR and the wider color gamut available for 4K content, this release comes Recommended!
Order your copy of The Others on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray