Title: The Other Side of the Door
Release Date: March 4th, 2016
Studios: 20th Century Fox
Director: Johannes Roberts
Release Format: Theatrical
Generally most people who set out to make something try their damn hardest to make their creation as excellent as possible, not only for the people who will eventually get to experience it but for themselves as well; nobody actively wants to make something that they cannot be proud of. Unfortunately, the cruel truth of the world is that not everything is going to turn out to be perfect and often critics, fans, and creators are all unduly harsh on things that aren’t great. Even some things that are seen as objectively bad can get more respect than things that are seen as mediocre, due to the sheer spectacle of their awfulness, things that are just OK often end up left behind and overlooked. This, I feel, is likely going to be the case with The Other Side of the Door.
In this film we find a family in crisis after their son, Oliver (played by Logan Creran), passes away due to a car crash. The be-grieved mother, Maria (played by Sarah Wayne Callies), takes the advice of their housekeeper, Piki (played by Suchitra Pillai-Malik) and travels deep into the Indian forests, to an ancient rotting temple which she locks herself into in order to perform a magic ritual.
The ritual allows her to speak to Oliver through the door of the temple, and giving into temptation and disobeying Piki’s orders Maria opens that door. As is wont to happen when specific orders about how to perform magic are disobeyed, things escalate and Maria has set loose upon herself and her family that which lives on The Other Side of the Door. (Cue creepy music.)
The Other Side of the Door is at its heart, a stereotypical horror film and while it tries to rise above those roots it doesn’t get very far. There is nothing particularly bad about this movie but there just isn’t anything that unique or inspired about it either. This film is a little better than just ok as I would be likely to call this film good or decent; I don’t regret paying money to see it, however, I wouldn’t want to pay to see it a second time.
The Other Side of the Door does try a few things that make it stand out from the bottom of the barrel, with its setting being most prominent among them. The film is set in India and after seeing it a few points instantly crossed my mind. Why don’t more horror films explore other cultures and religions when looking for things to spook us with? There are so many good mythical bogeymen out there, why not tap into some of that?
This film incorporates the Hindu concepts of the reincarnation and some of the Gods and Spirits involved in that to great effect. With threats coming from at least three different directions it is pretty hard to tell which potentially villainous entity deserves the most attention, and which ones are actually out to harm our protagonists.
In general, it is just refreshing to see a new take on Ghosts, Demons, and Spirits and a new setting in general. Some people might feel that having a white family staring in a film set in India and involving Indian spiritual practices is more or less cultural appropriation and I do understand how some could view this as a bad thing, but honestly it works for this movie.
No disrespect is given to the people of India and the establishing shots that are used to help create the atmosphere of this film do a good job of portraying some of the nicer aspects of Indian city life, and while they don’t delve into it to intensely some of the more negative parts of this place do get a few shots of their own, especially when it comes to adding to the horror.
And that is really what the film being set in India is about, just adding some unique flavor to this film, and that is almost the only reason that this movie manages to stay in the “Good” category for me, because of how underrepresented this setting and these particular types of horrors are on the screen. The Other Side of the Door isn’t particularly bad without its setting mind you, it is just incredibly average.
The family is just a generic upper-middle class family of white folk. They are not scripted particularly strongly and other than loving each other and the adults having a fondness for India they do not have much personality to them. The actors all do all right, and there are a few touching moments, I actually got close to tearing up extremely briefly, but in general they are all easily replaced.
That is what I mean when I say that this film is generic, everything besides the monsters could easily be replaced with anything else from a different mediocre horror film and it would barely be noticeable. None of the actors made enough of an impression for me to remember the names of their characters without having to look them up. Both the script and the acting are general as dull and lifeless as the films antagonists, with the difference being those monsters are unique and inspired while everything else in this script is not.
If this movie is so mediocre why do I like it then? For the horror of course. The generic family, the somewhat unique setting, it’s all just a setup for some good old fashioned scares. In the horror department, this film is surprisingly nuanced. The Other Side of the Door is not just one jump scare after another as you might expect after seeing the trailer but actually takes some time to set things up and build atmosphere.
The first third of the movie is just build up, establishing who everyone is and how things are going. Despite the standard dialogue, the few twists that the story takes the viewer on once the horror gets going are very enjoyable. As I said earlier there are various spirit entities that Maria unleashes and it is not immediately clear which ones are out to hurt her and what she can do, if anything, to stop them.
As with many ghost films the writers use the fact that spirits are not a single well-established type of creature to do whatever they like with the horror effects and The Other Side of the Door definitely uses this to its advantage. They let the horror slowly kick in and slowly add more enemies and new layers of fear. At first, things seem like they may return to normal for Maria and her family, and with a surprisingly refined touch, the filmmakers take the whole second portion of the film to ramp up the scares and build a scary environment without being too in your face.
We see the dog barking at invisible creeps, we start to see ghosts slowly move towards someone from outside a window over the course of an entire scene until we finally reach ghost overload and hit the third and final act.
At this point the scares start coming faster and faster and as the story starts to reach its climax the filmmakers utilize some of their best techniques. The best cinematography, from camera work to special effects, both practical and digital are all included in the restaurant and alley scene, which are my personal favorites of the movie. Without spoiling too much I will just say that this whole sequence was a great transition from subtle, environmental delusion and paranoia to full blown schizophrenic panic. This is hands down the best scene of the entire film and if you never bother to watch it, you may still find this scene worth looking up on YouTube in the years to come.
The Other Side of the Door can be both a pretty standard and generic horror movie at times. It doesn’t really bring anything new to the genre but it’s worth at least a single viewing if you’re bored and looking for something a little less repetitive than some of the other mediocre horror fare available today. It’s not amazing but I had a pretty fun time and I think you will as well if you decide that this film is worth your time.
- Acting: The best performances in the film came from the dog, the dead son, and the various ghosts and spirits. No one did terribly but there is nothing remarkable at all in this movie.
- Cinematography: The cinematography is also unremarkable in general, however, the horror effects are of a particularly high quality, especially when compared to everything else in this film.
- Story: Generic horror story themes, with Indian flavoring tossed in. The third act both came on and ended a little abruptly but the movie did not overstay it’s welcome. There were a few minor interesting points brought up but many went unexplored.
- Characters: The characters were all quite bland but they did fit into the world that the filmmakers built for them quite well.
- The horror effects were very nice and are better then what I expected to find in this film.
- For something that could have easily been a teen horror the film makers were able to pack a surprising amount of nuance into their scares.
- Set in India, which is a relatively unused country for the horror genre.
- The writing is very bland.
- Even though it is set in a novel environment, everything besides that and the scares manages to be replaceable and uninspired.
- The acting is equally unremarkable.