"Where there is fear, Gandhi said, we lose the way of our spirit. When we are in fear, we focus all our attention on the point of danger and lose our capacity to find any courage, sanity, or peace within ourselves. . . . Perhaps this is why, in the Christian New Testament, the phrase 'Be not afraid' is found more than 300 times," Wayne Muller writes in Legacy of the Heart. Here's a movie to illustrate that point.

Grace (Nicole Kidman) lives in a secluded island mansion off the coast of England with her two children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley). Her husband Charles (Christopher Eccleston) is away at one of the fronts in World War II. Since both children suffer from photosensitivity and must be kept out of all light, Grace has created elaborate rituals to maintain darkness in their home.

A devout Christian, this concerned mother force-feeds her children the faith. Naturally they rebel against praying, reading the Bible, and her versions of the afterlife. Their lives are imprisoned in fear — every waking moment. All of this seems very strange to Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan) who is hired as a servant along with Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes), a gardener, and Lydia (Elaine Cassidy), a mute young lady. When Anne starts seeing ghosts in the dark mansion, things go from bad to worse. Now they are all terrified.

The American debut of Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar (Open Your Eyes) is an impressive one. Eschewing the mayhem of most Hollywood horror stories, he makes the fears of Grace and her children vivid and palpable. And the surprise ending is well worth waiting for.