Welcome, dear readers, to Substream’s 31 Days of Halloween. While every holiday captures the hearts and minds of the Substream staff, Halloween holds an especially important place in our hearts. Now that we’ve entered the month of October, it’s time for us to share our love for this holiday with you.
Every single day in October, our collection of spooky staff writers and ghoulish guest contributors will walk you through a horror or Halloween-themed movie they adore. The goal is to both celebrate the titans and icons of the season while also introducing you to new films and scares to fill your autumn nights. Lock your doors, check under your bed, and settle in as you join Substream for our 31 Days of Halloween.
Day 2: The Others (2001)
Looking back, I’m hard-pressed to remember a more terrifying viewing experience than watching The Others for the first time. It’s a movie that has stuck with me as I’ve grown older and began to appreciate horror on a more cognizant and artistic level. I’ve come to realize my terror was actually intrigue, my young mind fascinated by the mechanism of this film and how it was able to hold all of its cards close to the chest until the right moment.
The Others was one of the first horror movies I was exposed to in 2001 at the tender and impressionable young age of 8. Luckily, I had parents who had no issue letting me watch horror as a kid. By the time I was 13, I was watching movies like Halloween and The Shining for fun. It’s such a vivid memory watching this movie in my dark living room with my mother. I’ve always been one prone to spoilers, mostly stemming from a need to never be caught off guard and always be in the know, but she wouldn’t tell me anything about the movie, insisting that I just sit there and experience it. I’m glad she did.
Set in 1945, in the immediate aftermath of World War II, The Others, directed by Alejandro Amenábar, focuses on Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) and her two children Anne and Nicholas who live on a dreary and foggy remote estate in the Channel Islands, South of England. She keeps the curtains drawn in every room of their mansion due to the children’s photosensitivity. If they’re exposed to any light, it would be detrimental to their health. Grace also hires three new servants: Bertha Mills, gardener Edmund Tuttle, and a younger mute girl, Lydia. Mills notes that she used to work at the estate many years prior, but left due to an outbreak of tuberculosis.
Strange occurrences in the mansion begin to plague the Stewarts — the piano playing itself, curtains vanishing, Grace discovers a book of death photos featuring Mills, Tuttle and Lydia. Worst of all, Anne begins talking about a group of people she calls “the others,” including a young boy named Victor she’s seen in the house and spoken with — leading Grace to fear that the house may, in fact, be haunted. Mills is also insistent on having Grace remember things she has no recollection of. A horrifying seance held in the house leads to the ultimate heart-wrenching twist ending revelation Grace can no longer ignore that answers many more questions than she bargained for.
The Others is a psychological gothic horror that works so well because the audience is learning along with its protagonists, putting you in their shoes and inside their paranoia. Through this tense character building, you grow to understand why the Stewarts are as confused and terrified as they are by their surroundings. It’s also a movie meant to be watched twice — once to go with the flow, the second to scope out clues you may have missed along the way.
Nicole Kidman gives a career highlight performance as Grace, turning what could have honestly been an annoying character in lesser hands into someone you end up wanting to know so much more about by the end of the film. In her face alone you can see there’s someone living with deep anxiety, someone hardened by circumstances she tries so hard to control. She’s truly at her best at the end of the film, serving up a tearful monologue that will stand the test of her filmography. But by and far, the film succeeds the way it does because it masterfully anchors its narrative on the interpersonal dynamics of the interaction between spirits and attempts to give insight to the delusion that could come with why a spirit would haunt a place, to begin with.
When revisiting The Others all these years later, it still holds up for me and is still everything I want out of a movie in general, much less a horror movie. A twist ending, depressing English mansion setting, Nicole Kidman running around with a shotgun? What more do you need?