By Nicole (UK)
Grace Stewart (Kidman) lives alone with her two photosensitive children, in a large house in Jersey. It is the aftermath of the war and the family is waiting for the return of their father. The children’s disease means that as they cannot be in direct sunlight, the house must follow strict rules. Every door that you open must be locked before you open the next. When the opening of locked doors coincides with the arrival of 3 new maids, Grace starts assuming the supernatural…
Many of us when watching horror movies, never properly appreciate the hard-to-master technique that makes the movie believable. While there’s an allure to getting a good fright, it is also scarily soothing to watch a horror movie that a lot of hard work has gone in to. Nicole Kidman was incredible in this film. Although she has been good in her other films, this really showed her flexibility, being able to cover all aspects and genres.
The film is set in Jersey. As well as being quite isolated as it’s the end of the war, the foggy, moonlit, eerie surrounding adds to the film tremendously. It could be interpreted as the thoughts running through Grace’s (Kidman) mind. Again inside the house, the dust and cobwebs combined with the echoes and candle lit corridors can only be thought of as unearthly and mysterious. Most of this movie is filmed inside the house. Grace can’t leave the house very often because of her children’s disease. This gives the impression that grace can’t get away from all of this paranormal activity. It is all stuck inside her head. Although she feels trapped, she also feels connected to it and refuses to leave maybe partly because of the children but also because she is afraid to go outside. She is almost becoming institutionalized within her own home.
At the start of the film Grace’s love for her children is more like a teacher’s bond with a pair of students. As the movie progressed, the bond holding all of them from falling apart grew stronger and stronger and eventually they looked and felt like a family. Most of this film is about Grace’s inside struggle and how the children cope with it. While Anne (Mann) rebels against her mother’s newfound ways; Nicholas always looks back on the past, wanting the family to be as they used to be. Together they talk about their Mother’s ‘breakdown’ but mostly only on their own, like they don’t want it to be true.
The opening scene of the film is a close up of Grace’s screaming face. This sudden burst of noise combined with the close up camera gives a good opening scene.
Unfortunately this film moves along quite slowly and until you get to the twist there are a few bits that drag on. The good bits are great though and I really enjoyed watching this film that was scary but didn’t keep me up all night. Very well done to, Mr Alejandro Amnebar. He fully deserved all of the awards he and his film received. Again Nicole Kidman and her stony, pale, glare that she gave in the film were nothing but the best.
What you don’t see is scarier than what you do see. A refreshing new take on horror, and something I would watch again.