I'm a fan of ghost stories, particularly of the oral variety. They were my first love in both literature and movies. I'm fond of composing them myself, around a campfire or in a big empty house, gradually building the suspense and letting it settle into a creepy climax that leaves people looking over their shoulders.

This movie tried to bring that sort of magic to the screen. I emphasize tried. It was obviously taken from the same mould as a classic ghost story. Suspense built, events were left unexplained, and everything tied into what should have been a chilling finale.

Except that everything was choreographed well in advance. Maybe it's because other movies recently released were somewhat similar, but I saw the ending almost in exactitude about 20 minutes into the film. The suspense builds, true, but it dissipates in non-events, points in the plot where something occurs because somebody decided something strange had to happen in order to keep the audience's attention. There was at least one scene that could certainly have been cut with benefit to the film, and others that should have been reworked.

The claustrophobia evident in the cinematography works -- to a point. At the instances in which freedom should be shown, the claustrophobia remains rather than departs. This leaves the viewer feeling cheated, because the story dictates a sort of emotional release and the cinematography remains rooted in darkness and enclosure. There are also points where the dialogue is extremely wide, with long pauses and slow diction, which seem rather incongruous, though this may be a bit too picky.

There are lots of questions in this film that go unanswered, and those that have answers given are the most obvious ones, which you've basically figured out yourself. All in all, I found that this film dragged along rather than pulled me along, and that I was neither frightened nor satisfied with the ending.

The high point would have to be that the child actors, Alakina Mann and James Bentley are amazingly talented, and extremely realistic in an English Schoolboy/girl sort of way. Nicole Kidman's performance is adequate but lacking inspiration. The frantic nature of her character is muted somewhat by what I believe was intended to be period acting. It was hard to tell.

By reaching too high, this film managed to fall down. Expecting a classic, gradually constructed ghost story and receiving a pale imitation of one is a disappointment to any fan of the genre.

Casting Information:

Nicole Kidman ..............Grace
Christopher Eccleston ..... Charles
Fionnula Flanagan ......... Mrs. Mills
Elaine Cassidy ............ Lydia
Eric Sykes ............... Mr. Tuttle
Alakina Mann .............. Anne
James Bentley ............ Nicholas
Rene Ascherson