Somewhere inside ‘The Others’ director Alejandro Amenábar’s confused ’90s-set reimagining of ‘The Crucible’ is a really interesting, conflicted movie about mass hysteria and Satanic panic fighting to get out. It’s there in the lines on detective Ethan Hawke’s face as he digs deeper into an apparent case of ritual abuse in small-town Minnesota. It’s there in psychiatrist David Thewlis’s anger as he defends his use of regressive therapy to uncover the suppressed memories of one backwoods family, all accusing one another of Devil worship. But it’s nowhere to be found in the crude treatment of Emma Watson’s manipulative teen or the oh-so-moody music and cinematography. Indeed, by the crass, point-the-finger ending, it’s fled altogether.
Amenábar is posing all kinds of interesting questions here about the slippery nature of faith, about the fluidity of memory and about our willingness to judge others on scant evidence. But his script hits like a hammer when it should slice like a scalpel: at one point, Hawke delivers a lecture practically to-camera, bluntly unpicking the film’s themes and inquiries. The shifts in tone are similarly clunky, awkwardly blending melodrama with detective story and repeatedly undermining the weighty subject matter with cheap riffs on classic horror movies, notably ‘The Omen’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. A wasted opportunity.