The Other Side of the Door Movie Review
Written by Giuseppe Infante
Released by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Johannes Roberts
Written by Ernest Riera and Johannes Roberts
2016, 96 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray/DVD released on June 7th, 2016
Sarah Wayne Callies as Maria
Jeremy Sisto as Michael
Sofia Rosinsky as Lucy
Suchitra Pillai as Piki
Javier Botet as Myrtu
When you begin to lose care for the characters in a story, something is wrong. What’s the problem? It could be on various degrees and levels. Sometimes just a simple scene may need to be cut; sometimes more drastic measures must be taken. When you begin to take a rain check, it is a tell-tale sign for weak storytelling. The bonds forged with several characters are now broken, and you may experience betrayal and ill feelings toward the filmmakers. The Other Side of the Door inflicted these feelings within me, and although the beginning is luring, as a whole entity it is an unsuccessful attempt to add to the stack in the haunting genre.
The plot is simple. A woman loses her son in a car accident. Her daughter’s nanny enlightens her about a mystical temple where she can call upon her dead son for one night. She’s only able to talk to him from the other side of the front door. The nanny insists she must not open the door, but she ignores her demand of course. From there, The Other Side of the Door becomes an interesting haunting flick. It is not bad, that is, until the 1:03:00 mark, where it becomes uninteresting. The movie absolutely shits the bed and goes on for a free fall, removing any concern from the investment in the characters and story.
The story and setting go hand in hand. The locale in The Other Side of the Door is India and has an opportunity to be appealing, and is at times. The cultural elements end up being an effortless plot device rather than an informative and analytical look at a cultural mythology. And it’s fine if that’s the way the filmmakers want to go, it can still be scary; what it ends up being is one of the most cliché ridden horror flicks of recent times. It fulfills the haunting genre checklist, and is especially chockfull of terrible jump-scares.
Another part of The Other Side of the Door that fails is the characters are hollow. They have no depth and discovery of self, and the actors can only do so much without a solid script. For example, the main protagonist, Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies), has lost her son in a car accident, and is guilt stricken. Her daughter, who survived the accident, and husband (Jeremy Sisto), have accepted the loss and have moved on with life in India, while the nanny, Piki (Suchitra Pillai), informs Maria about the temple in her village with spiritual powers to rekindle the dead. When Maria is on the inside of the door and her son the outside, she cannot contain herself and opens it. This is actually one of the stronger scenes, along with the flashback of the accident.
I cannot stress this enough; I was enjoying the movie and all worked for me until the one hour and three-minute mark. I don't want to spoil the movie, so I won't tell you the exact reason why the movie goes flat, you'll know. Before this point, the movie has flaws that could be overlooked. For example, why doesn’t the husband question his wife about her disappearance, as her and the nanny travel to the temple in her village (did Piki have vacation days?). The use of The Jungle Book is a nice touch at first, but goes way over the top; from the stuffed Bagheera, to a quote at 58 minutes that basically sums up the movie, to the reading and sight of the book in several scenes. I’m all for using literature as allusions and tropes, but this is like analysis for middle schoolers. Also, why the hell does Piki tell Maria about the damn temple if she knows it would unleash such wrath on the family? And Maria has to exhume her son’s corpse (without the husband knowing) and bring his ashes to the temple for scattering. He isn’t going to notice the offbeat look from digging at the gravesite? I’m sure he goes to mourn sometimes. Maybe he doesn’t. It is never mentioned, but cannot be left unsaid.
The first act of The Other Side of the Door is the strongest, drawing viewers with dramatic scenes executed with excellent acting and cinematography. The casting and cinematography are not an issue. Sarah Wayne Callies puts on an impressive performance as the guilt-ridden mother. The child actors, Sophia Rosinsky and Logan Creran, are rock-solid, along with Jeremy Sisto. But again, the cast can only do so much. And not to mention, there are shamans (the Aghori) who bring an interesting aspect to the story, and also hit another notch on the checklist. They could have been more fleshed out in co-ordinance with the terrible plot details, which unravels at that moment I’ve been mentioning in the latter part of the film.
Ultimately, the cast, setting and concept are an underutilized syndicate in The Other Side of the Door. What could’ve been a frightening and chilling haunting flick ends up fizzling out into a burp of hot air with a faint stench of Hollywood.