Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar didn't finish college. Halfway through he ditched his classes to devote editing-room time to Thesis, a ground-breaking first film that garnered comparisons to Hitchcock. This and subsequent films won Amenábar the attentions of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, among many others. Kidman stars in Amenábar's English-language debut (executive produced by Cruise), The Others.
The movie is pure Gothic, heavily reminiscent of Henry James' classic ghost story Turn of the Screw. Even the title references another of James' supernatural tales, The Altar of the Dead. In a vast English manor during WWII lives a possibly widowed mother (Nicole Kidman) and her two children, both of whom are allergic to sunlight. One door must be closed before another is opened; all windows are covered; and three servants suddenly show up to replace the ones who mysteriously disappeared. Then come strange noises in the night…
Amenábar knows his scenario is brilliant. He milks the subtlety and ambiguity to delightful, tense effect. The Others displays solid filmmaking, is classical in execution, and brings out Kidman's most nuanced performance to date.