Directed by Alejandro Amenábar starring Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan, Christopher Eccleston, Alakina Mann, James Bentley, Elaine Cassidy and Eric Sykes.

With the amount of copy devoted to both her private life and all-singing all-dancing performance in 'Moulin Rouge' this summer, it's almost as if Nicole Kidman's latest film has slipped under the radar of public consciousness. But while 'The Others' has thus far been 'the other' movie Kidman has starred in this year, it's doubtful that such oversights will linger upon its release. Because with a script to die for (literally), Kidman at the peak of her craft and a superb supporting cast behind her, this has all the hallmarks of a classic thriller.

Set in post war Jersey, Kidman plays Grace, a young woman whose husband (Eccleston) is missing in action and who is trying to look after the massive family home and two children following the sudden disappearance of her staff. Both Grace's children Anne and Nicolas (Mann and Bentley) suffer from a condition that makes them allergic to daylight and which could prove fatal unless they are kept in darkened rooms all day. With Grace having reached her breaking point, the arrival of three new servants (Flanagan, Cassidy and Sykes) seems to promise the help that she needs. But no sooner have they arrived than the unexplained noises and eerie happenings begin, and when daughter Anne claims to have seen a young boy roaming between rooms, Grace is left wondering whether her home is haunted or she is going insane.

Director Alejandro Amenábar (whose 1997 film 'Open Your Eyes' is soon to re-emerge as the US remake 'Vanilla Sky') has created a richly atmospheric ghosts-in-the-house tale which deserves to be ranked alongside other psychological gems like 'Don't Look Now' and 'The Sixth Sense'. Rather than rework or subvert the genre, Amenábar (who also wrote and scored the film) plays it straight, constantly adhering to the oft-overlooked maxim - that people are more scared by what they don't see. The result is a film, which in both style and substance, is timeless – you could be watching any movie treasure from the Thirties upwards.

With most of the story taking place indoors, Amenábar keeps the action compact, there is never any spare flesh on scenes with the dialogue clipped and loaded to give you maximum chills with the minimum of fuss. As her world collapses around her Kidman gives arguably her best performance to date. Since her mould-breaking role in 1995's 'To Die For' Kidman has managed to balance both mainstream appeal with a penchant for the quirkier roles and 'The Others' is no exception.

While still looking glacially glamorous she brilliantly conveys a repressed sexuality as the woman who is surrounded by either the very young or very old and longs for the adult relationship that only her missing husband can promise. When he finally appears, her character thaws somewhat, but while the scenes between Kidman and Eccleston are touching, Amenábar is just fooling you into the notion that everything will be alright. It won't, and the last half hour of the film turns the shocks ever tighter with Kidman's Grace pitted against both her own children and the house staff, brilliantly led by Fionnula Flanagan's Mrs Mills.

This is a film which combines both an elegiac beauty and white knuckle terror in every frame and heralds Amenábar as one of the brightest talents to watch in the years ahead. For both he and Kidman 'The Others' should promise – at the very least - Oscar nominations this February.

A must see - or should that be scream?

Harry Guerin