In a post-Sixth Sense world, The Others’ ending is as spell-binding as M. Night Shyamalan's classic. It’s not easy to essentially take Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and revamp it into a psychological horror-thriller, but the English-language debut of Alejandro Amenabar (Abre Los Ojos) paid off in its creative risks and twist finale that left jaws on the floor.
Much like The Sixth Sense, though, the reveal was relatively easy to spot. The story of a woman (Nicole Kidman) and her two children living in a spooky Victorian mansion was riddled with metaphorical clues that led audiences down a bread crumb-laden trail. Even if you were clever enough to spot them at the time, they didn't devalue the journey, which speaks to Amenabar's sensibilities and complete control over the film he directed and wrote. Valuing old-school cinematic techniques and vintage horror films, he was more interested in building up to the big twist, rather than the big twist, itself.
As the film's finale still proves to be a pillar of the horror genre, we're diving deep into The Others and why its ending is still enticing for today's audiences.
The Film's Big Twist, Hiding In Plain SightM. Night Shyamalan changed the horror landscape when he unleashed his ghost story starring a little Haley Joel Osmont as a child who sees dead people. Audiences went bonkers over the shocking twist ending, and filmmakers took note.
Amenabar, who directed, wrote and composed the music for The Others, knew this. He said in interviews (like this one, with Pop Matters) that he wanted to make a film that didn’t rely so heavily on theatrical special effects, and instead went down a path that focused on character, played with silences, and bathed in metaphor. The effort paid off handsomely, as The Others is one of his best and most celebrated works. The Others’ ending, in turn, has arguably become one of the greatest additions to the horror genre, and one that raised the bar for the others (pun intended) moving forward.
All throughout The Others, Grace and her children have been plagued by sounds, which progress to frightening supernatural occurrences, and even possession. We come to know Grace as a devoutly religious woman who constantly preaches to her children about what happens to little kids who turn their backs on Christ. She chooses not to believe in phantoms, but soon, these spirits become harder and harder to ignore.
In the final moments of the film, Grace discovers that her three household staffers are also ghosts. After an encounter in the woods, her children run up to their bedroom to go and hide, only to be taken inside by the ghostly "intruders." Grace bravely walks up the stairs to confront these spirits, and save her children from their clutches. When she opens the door, she sees a round table at which are seated three of the beings her children have seen around the house — a mother, a father, an old woman — and a fourth. The old woman, her eyes as foggy as the mist that surrounds the mansion, asks Grace’s daughter to tell her what happened to them. "Is that how she killed you?" she asks, which sends the family into a frenzy. "We’re not dead!" they shout repeatedly.
As it turns out, though, they are dead. At the risk of sounding comically cliche, they’ve been dead this whole time. And if you paid close attention, you'll see that the clues to this huge reveal were in front of us the whole time. Let's analyze Amenabar's chilling process, and the impact it had on the horror genre next.