Creepy wood carvings open the mood during the credits. Creepy victorian house 1945. Nicole Kidman is screaming in bed. Nightmare perhaps? The servants come to the door. Hey are old and one is young but mute. She is very demanding as their boss. She seems to be a mean parent as well. She urges them to not let the children thump away on the piano as it sets off her “migraine.” Each door in the house is part of an elaborate system of locks and keys. She might have Munchausen’s disease. She keeps the kids hidden and believes they have a deadly sensitivity to light.
The servant that stopped by were actually previous servants in the house. They were hoping to be taken in as servants. Gothic houses in fog with a chimney sweep. The kids are talking about denying Christ if they were ever in danger of death as a result of believing. Kidman’s character hears a young child crying. The daughter tells her a crying boy named Victor was there.
When more odd events occur at the house, Grace begins to fear there are unknown “others” present. Anne claims to have seen a group of people in the house several times: a man, woman, an old woman and a child called Victor, who have claimed that “the house is theirs”. After Grace hears footsteps and unknown voices, she orders the house to be searched. Grace finds a 19th-century so-called “book of the dead”, which is a photo album of mourning portraitphotos of deceased family members, with some missing pages. Grace asks Mills about when she last worked in the house. Mills says that many were evacuated due to an outbreak of tuberculosis.
The jump scares are subtle yet effective. Old houses remind us of our mortality. So do ghosts. So far, cgi is not needed. Less is more.
At night, Grace witnesses a piano playing itself and becomes convinced that the house may be haunted. Convinced that something unholy is in the house, Grace runs outside in search of the local priest to bless the house. Before leaving, Grace instructs Tuttle to check a small nearby cemetery to see if there was a family buried there who had a little boy named Victor. Tuttle covers the gravestones with fallen autumn leaves, under the orders of Mills, who comments that Grace thinks the house is haunted. Outside, Grace discovers her husband Charles, who she thought had been killed in the war. Charles greets his children after a long absence, but is distant during the short time he spends at the house. Later, Grace has a vision of an elderly woman and attacks her. Grace discovers that she has actually attacked Anne, who retreats to her father. Anne tells Nicholas that Grace went mad in the same way that she did “that day”. Nicholas denies recollection of such, and says he must leave for the front, even though Grace claims that the war is over. The two embrace and lie motionless together in bed.
The next morning, Charles is gone and the children are screaming as all the curtains have disappeared. Grace accuses the servants of removing the curtains and banishes them. That night, the children sneak outside and discover the servants’ graves from years past. Simultaneously, Grace finds a photograph of the corpses of her servants, who have been dead for 50 years. The servants appear and try to speak to the children, who retreat. They hide upstairs in the bedroom, where they are discovered by the elderly woman. Mills tells Grace to go upstairs and talk to the intruders. Grace discovers that the old woman is in fact a medium in a séance with Victor’s parents, who discovers via automatic writing that Grace smothered the children to death with a pillow in a fit of rage before committing suicide.
Grace realizes that the “others” are the family that has just moved in, and that she, her children and servants are the spirits. Following the display of spiritualistic activity, Victor’s family is convinced to vacate the house and leave it in the occupancy of the six ghosts.