It was a dark and stormy night. Not really, but even a nighttime maelstrom couldn’t make the set-up of this film more perfect for a psychological thriller. The year is 1945. Grace and her two children Anne and Nicholas live in an old mansion. On an island. Away from everyone. The children’s extreme allergy to sunlight makes their environment even more oppressive. Thick curtains are perpetually drawn. Nothing but candlelight is tolerated, lest Anne and Nicholas break out in sores, suffocate and die.
Inside their shrouded residence, mom and the children are alone—husband and father Charles went away to war a year and a half previously and hasn’t been heard from, even though the fighting has ended. What’s more, all the servants have been missing for five days. Isolated and helpless, Grace’s control wavers, but she pulls herself together for the arrival of three peculiar new servants, Mrs. Mills, Mr. Tuttle, and Lydia. She also manages to keep up her strict regimen of religious education for her children, who are studying for their First Communion.
No matter how adamantly Grace tries to deny it, strange things continue to happen. Her faith doesn’t seem adequate for explaining the mysterious presences in the house. And now, her children are in danger ...
positive content: Against the backdrop of Grace’s lifeless, well-rehearsed religious answers, Anne’s intelligent searching is spotlighted as the more desirable approach. It’s a theme that’s worth exploring within the context of a Christian world view, but without an anchor of truth, both approaches lead to spiritual dead-ends.
spiritual content: The film’s message summed up in one "moral" is this: religion, especially Christianity, is nothing more than superstition. Coming in at a close second is the message that ghosts are not storybook figures wearing white sheets and clanking chains, but the natural next step in human existence, perhaps "more real" than living people.
En route to these conclusions, great care is taken to set up the Catholic faith as a series of rituals and rote answers that don’t line up with real life. Despite mounting "evidence" that her beliefs are inadequate and irrational, Grace continues to cling to them, appearing increasingly absurd as the story progresses. Even more disturbing, Grace berates Anne for questioning what she’s been taught, and she uses "Christian" stories to frighten and manipulate her children. Anti-religious propaganda reaches its height when the innocently wise Anne tells Mrs. Mills, "Mother told us not to believe everything we hear in stories, but she expects us to believe everything in the Bible." The audience is meant to understand that the two are equally fictitious.
Many "supernatural" contacts are made via séance. Yet strangely, all the ghosts-and-spooks talk serves mainly to reinforce a very non-spiritual view of the world. Rather than acknowledging heaven and hell, an afterlife and a spiritual realm, The Others assumes that there is no life apart from the material world. Therefore, it’s also necessary to assume that different kinds of physical beings live simultaneously in different realms within the world, and that interaction between dimensions seems like scary, supernatural contact.
sexual content: After Charles unexpectedly returns, the audience sees the before-and-after of an implied sexual encounter with his wife. The scene is comprised of head and neck shots only.
violent content: A door is slammed in Grace’s face and knocks her to the floor. Grace is terrified by a ghost who appears to be imitating Anne. When she tries to choke the ghost, she ends up hurting Anne. At the end of the film, Grace tries to rid the house of ghosts by shooting at them. (Of course, the bullets can do no harm to those already dead.) In addition, there are many tense, though not violent, scenes where eerie music creates a steady flow of uneasy adrenaline for the audience.
crude or profane language: Grace uses the word "d--ned," and "oh my God" is used a couple of times.
drug and alcohol content: None.
other negative elements: Though not an explicit message, audiences could interpret the film’s story line and multiple-dimension setup in such a way that makes suicide seem like a viable option.
conclusion: Yes, it is a Sixth Sense rip-off. And an extremely well-done one at that. But where The Sixth Sense seemed spiritually confused, The Others takes direct ideological aim at Christianity. Beginning with a naturalistic worldview, the film sets out to prove that this world is all that really exists and that religion is merely a man-made crutch. A more basic representation of the lies of this age is hard to find.
On the other hand, it’s crucial to remember that what’s being attacked is someone’s perception of Christianity, which is clearly not the same as the living faith described in the Bible. And, ironically, some of the images and techniques used in The Others underscore vital Christian precepts. Most notable are the played-up visual contrasts between light and dark and the repeated theme that abiding in the light, fully facing reality and accepting the truth is the best way to live. The Others is sadly misguided as to what truth is, but even in presenting error, it inadvertently acknowledges the God-given truth that exists throughout Creation.