is a 2001 supernatural horror film directed by Alejandro Amenábar, and starring Nicole Kidman
, Christopher Eccleston and Fionnula Flanagan. It became the first English spoken film ever to receive the Best Film Award at Spain's Goya Awards.
The film is set on the British Channel Island of Jersey in the immediate aftermath of World War II
, and follows devout Catholic Grace Stewart and her two young children, Anne and Nicholas, who both suffer from a rare disease which means that they cannot risk exposure to sunlight as it will be fatal to them. The arrival of three servants coincides with a number of odd and increasingly disturbing events - disembodied voices, strange noises and the children claiming to have seen several ghostly figures - causing Grace to fight to save her children while struggling to keep her sanity.
Known for its multiple reveals
and Twist Ending
. Beware of spoilers below.
This film provides examples of:
- Adult Fear: Grace really freaks out whenever she believes her children are hurt or in danger.
- Bittersweet Ending: The Stewarts were dead all along, and died in a very tragic manner, but realizing and accepting this has allowed them to overcome their dysfunctional family issues.
- Broken Bird: Poor Lydia comes conveniently pre-broken.
- California Doubling: The film is set in Jersey, but the exterior shots of the mansion were filmed in Spain.
- Catapult Nightmare: At the very beginning of the film, Grace is shown awaking from a nightmare (which the audience doesn't witness) by screaming her head off. Later events, however, imply that it was no dream - her ghost had just "woken up" from killing her own family and then herself. Technically though, it's not a Catapult Nightmare - she remains lying down throughout the traumatic awakening.
- Chekhov's Gun: The "book of the dead." It's filled with photographs of the corpses of recently deceased people; a practica that's supposed to help bring them back as spirits.
- Grace's rifle.
- The graves, first seen when the servants deliberately cover them up and brought back into play at the climax.
- Creator Cameo: Alejandro Amenábar appears as one of the photographed corpses in the book of the dead.
- Creepy Child: Anne has her moments. Mostly because the "others" seem particularly drawn to her.
- Dead All Along: Grace and both of her children at the end.
- Deadpan Snarker: Anne. Also Bertha Mills, towards the end:
Grace: [in a state of hysteria] Someone has taken the curtains!
Mrs. Mills: I have noticed, ma'am. There's no need for you to raise your voice. [she sees Mr. Tuttle] Oh, Mr. Tuttle. I was just on the point of calling you. Did you know that someone has taken all the curtains?
- Demonic Possession: When Anne is left alone to play she's possessesed by the ghost of an old blind woman. Subverted, however, when it's revealed the family are ghosts, and thus Anne was the possesor - though it was completely unintentional on her part. In fact, the old woman may have been allowing herself to be possessed.
- Driven to Suicide: Grace was driven to suicide by the realisation that she killed her own children.
- Elephant in the Living Room: Throughout the movie there is the palpable sense that something has happened in the house and that everyone knows something that they're not talking about - but what it is remains a mystery to each character and to the audience until the conclusion.
- The Ending Changes Everything
- Familicide: Grace went mad and killed her children before killing herself.
- Fantasy-Forbidding Mother: Grace initially acts like this towards Anne and Nicholas' belief in ghosts, and at one point tells Mrs. Mills that she dislikes "fantasies; strange ideas."
- Future Shadowing: Grace's reaction when she first picks up the rifle when attempting to hunt down the "intruders" foreshadows the film's Twist Ending.
- Coupled with Harsher in Hindsight is the twice-said "Stop breathing like that... Stop breathing!"
- Lydia's muteness, which Mrs. Mills seems rather uncomfortable with discussing at any great length, and Grace is insistent that something horribly traumatic must have happened to Lydia to result in her refusal to speak. It did indeed.
- Haunted House: Inverted. The house is haunted, but it's Grace's family that are the ghosts.
- Here We Go Again: The final shot of the film shows the gate leading to the house with a "For Sale" sign attached to it.
- The Hero Dies: Grace herself at the end.
- Heroic BSOD / Sanity Slippage: It's this that causes Grace to snap and kill her children and herself prior to the events of the film, but she is also well on her way towards another episode towards the end of the film. Also, Charles suffers this after returning home from the horrors of war.
- Infant Immortality: Subverted.
- I See Them Too: Mrs. Mills says this word-for-word to a highly upset Anne, when Grace is in severe denial about the presence of the "others."
- I Want My Daddy: Anne says this.
- Jerkass: Anne psychologically bullies her brother and is cruel to Lydia, making fun of the latter's muteness. However, her mother's way of raising her isn't exactly ideal, so that does explain a lot of the behavior, and by the end Anne is firmly in Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory.
- Jump Scare: A few - the first shot of the mansion having its silence suddenly interrupted by Grace's ear-splitting scream, the part during the "piano room" scene when the door suddenly slams into Grace's face, knocking her backwards, and, of course, the old woman bursting into the cupboard.
- Madness Mantra: "We're not dead! WE'RE NOT DEAD!"
- "This house is ours. This house is ours."
- Mama Bear: Grace.
- Mirror Scare: Completely averted. There is a significant use of mirrors and reflections throughout the film, which may lead some viewers to believe that a Mirror Scare is going to be set up, but it isn't.
- Musical Spoiler: Averted. During the "piano room" scene, the film's scary score increases in volume, leading the viewer to believe that something frightening is about to happen. It doesn't. After a minute or so of tenseness, however, the Jump Scare does eventually happen - when there's no music playing.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Used throughout much of the film.
- Oh, Crap: When Anne and Nicholas realise that they aren't alone when they are hiding in the cupboard.
- Grace, when she discovers the photograph of the corpses of the servants - and the scene cuts away to Anne pulling a similar face after finding the servants' gravestones. Then Anne turns around and sees that they're walking towards her and Nicholas...
- Our Ghosts Are Different: They're actually alive and the characters we've been following the entire movie are the ghosts.
- Parental Issues: Anne and Grace do not get along, but as the film goes on it becomes clear how deeply they care about each other.
- Poor Communication Kills: Happens towards the end, when Anne is trying to warn Nicholas about the servants.
Anne: Nicholas, don't speak to them!
Anne: They're dead!
Anne: They're ghosts! Come over here!
Nicholas: But you said "ghosts wear sheets and carry chains"!
Anne: I don't care what I said! Get away from them!
Nicholas: You're always teasing me, and telling lies. I'm sick of it!
Anne: Nicholas, I'm telling the truth! COME HERE!
- Prophet Eyes: The old woman, although this is because she is presumably blind.
- Psychic Powers: The old woman, who turns out to be a medium.
- The Reveal: Not only are Mrs. Mills, Mr. Tuttle and Lydia all ghosts, but so are Grace and her family, and the "others" are, in fact, living people who have bought the house and, none too pleased about the fact that it' haunted, are using the services of an old blind medium to try and contact the spirits of Grace and her children.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Charles.
- Small Secluded World: Used to make the presence of the "others" more eerie. The entire film takes place on a very empty island estate, occupied only by the Stewart family and three new servants. To add to this effect, almost every time we see ouside it's misty, creating a bigger sense of isolation.
- Grace keeps her children locked in the house, because they have a condition that makes them allergic to direct sunlight. They aren't even allowed to enter or leave a room without someone first checking there's no sunlight leaking in.
- The Speechless: Lydia is mute. The reason why later becomes clear: she became severely traumatised upon discovering that she and her colleagues are dead. There is a moment when she does make a valiant attempt to speak, but she just cannot get the words out, no matter how hard she tries.
- Spooky Photographs: The memento mori - pictures taken of very recently deceased corpses.
- To add to the creepy factor, all of them appear peaceful enough that Grace first believes they're sleeping. The variety in the the photos themselves is also unnerving; there are a lot of group photos, twins, and even babies.
- Team Mom: Mrs. Mills. She's very kindly, comforts Anne and Nicholas several times, acts as something of a mother towards Lydia, and gently offers to make Grace a cup of tea after The Reveal.
- Tomato in the Mirror: ALL of the characters are ghosts, except for the "intruders" Anne keeps seeing. They're a living family trying to make peace with the spirits that appear to be haunting their new house.
- Twist Ending: Grace and the kids have been dead all along.
- Weakened by the Light: Because of a genetic disorder (Xeroderma pigmentosum), the kids cannot be exposed to sunlight or they might die. Once they realize they are already dead, they get to enjoy sunlight for the first time.
- Wham Line: "Is that how she killed you?"
- There's also one a little while earlier, after the revelation that the servants are all ghosts and Grace has just sent her children to hide:
Mrs. Mills: And suppose we do leave you, ma'am, do you suppose that they will?