At its best, Alejandro Amenabar's "The Others" is reminiscent of "The Innocents," Jack Clayton's marvelously creepy 1960 version of Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw." There's a remote old house (in this case, on an island in the English Channel, set in 1945), two haunted-looking children, a caretaker who may be unreliable and some ghosts who may or may not be imaginary.
Amenabar, a 29-year-old Spaniard, wrote and directed the film, and even composed its eerie score. It's his English-language debut (his "Open Your Eyes" is currently being remade by Cameron Crowe) and he clearly has a knack for nicely timed scares and the clammy, dark atmosphere of the gothic thriller.
The supporting actors fare better: Alakina Mann and James Bentley (whose tragic little face is heartbreaking) are suitably disturbing as the children; Fionnula Flanagan is appealing as an increasingly mysterious nanny.
"The Others" is bumpy at first, with a few too many clichés and an awful lot of doors opening and closing. But by its final image — a beautifully fading portrait through a window — I was swept in. Amenabar is clearly a talent to watch.
Moira Macdonald can be reached at 206-464-2725 or email@example.com.