I really enjoyed this movie, especially the séance scene at the end. What an awesome twist, and I have to admit I totally didn’t see it coming.
During this movie a very small part stood out to me from the standpoint of a writer/storyteller. It’s the scene where the housekeeper gives Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) a pill for her migraines, but this is around the time in the movie when the housekeepers are acting a bit odd. Therefore, Grace is suspicious of this pill, presumably thinking the housekeepers are pulling one over on her, so we see her pour it out in the sink when the housekeeper is gone from the room. For a horror movie, this little snippet kind of works double-time. For one, it can offer or at least suggest a potential reason for the hauntings (something I want to write my final paper on – the different types of ways to suggest a potential reason for the hauntings in a horror story) – perhaps the housekeepers have been messing with Grace, giving her pills that muddle her mind. Or perhaps they have something else in mind entirely. However, it’s also just an example of regular old great storytelling that can be used in any story – a small hint of potential trouble. At the end of the movie, I thought back to that moment and realized – “hey, that pill really didn’t have anything to do with anything.” But what made that part so effective is that it got the viewer wondering if it did – if it all came down to those pills or if the housekeeper was purposefully messing around with Grace for whatever reason, even if it didn’t even tie directly into the hauntings. Like I said, it was like a small “dose of potential trouble.” I think this is something for us storytellers to keep in mind no matter what genre we write in. Even if there’s a possibility for trouble, why not hint at it, even if it doesn’t wind up holding any water? It will keep the viewer/reader guessing, not to mention intrigued about the possibility of trouble. Like Michael Arnzen has told us many times, “Trouble is interesting.” So perhaps it’s always a good idea to keep that in mind and add a little “pill of trouble” to our stories from time to time (I’m coining that phrase lol).
I also wanted to add another point about this. It’s also much better for these “pills of trouble” to be of action rather than a character’s internalization. In a story I’ve been writing, I realized that I sometimes insert these “pills” via a character’s thoughts, which is not nearly as effective as action. For example, it would have been far worse for Grace to have simply wondered to herself (though, obviously, it would be tougher to do this in a movie than a book), perhaps in a room by herself, “Hmmm…those ‘migraine’ pills – I wonder if they’re not what they seem. Maybe they’re not really migraine pills, but something bad – some kind of poison the housekeeper is giving us!” But that’s not nearly as effective as having her be suspicious when the housekeeper actually gives her the pill, and having Grace outwardly question them before dumping them into the sink. It feels like much more of a real threat when it’s part of the action than when she’s just thinking it. Plus, it makes the reader wonder about the nature of the pills – makes them think about what they could really be, which is far more effective than the character wondering.
I wanted to bring up another part of the movie just because I was a bit confused by it. It’s the part where the father comes home from the war. This part seemed odd and kind of like it was just stuck in there to me based on the way Grace finds him. She’s out in the woods near the house and randomly runs into her husband – all by himself. As a viewer, I was like, “Oh – come ON.” It just seemed way too random and kind of silly – how could he be all by himself so close to the house? Of course, by the end of the movie I guess it makes sense, since Grace, her kids, and her husband (I think) are all dead, so theoretically their spirits (including his) can go and be wherever they want, but I don’t feel like the addition of the husband added much to the story. Maybe I missed something, but instead it made me cry foul at that part, which is obviously not what you want to do unless you have a VERY good reason for it, and I don’t feel like this was a good reason. Could be just me, though. Did anyone else find that part far-fetched (even though it eventually did make some sort of sense) or kind of silly?