I basically have only one rule when it comes to the horror genre: You don’t have to be original, you just can’t be boring.
The Other Side of the Door fails miserably in both regards, unable to maintain its small and simple story or create a cohesive atmosphere or even to hold the audience’s attention. It’s a dull slog that takes forever getting to its main point, and doesn’t do anything to justify the excess time.
Jeremy Sisto and Sarah Wayne Callies play Michael and Maria, a young couple who run an antiques exporting business out of their home in India while raising their young daughter Lucy (Sofia Rosinsky). It’s an ideal life, except that Sarah has horrific depression and PTSD stemming from a tragic accident that killed the couple’s other child, Oliver. Fortunately, their mystical-Indian housemaid Piki (Suchitra Pillai) tells her of a temple where she can perform a ritual to speak to Oliver one last time, on the condition that she never open the door to let him in. Of course, she does. Oliver returns as a zombie/ghost/apparition attempting to climb back into the living world, while forces from beyond try to pull him back with the aid of some pretty racist tribesmen.
The movie is barely over 90 minutes long, but it still takes almost an hour for Oliver to seem like an actual threat. This would be acceptable except that the build-up doesn’t succeed in creating any kind of an atmosphere, nor does it bother examining Maria’s character any further than “sad mom.” A film which is willing to let its mead evolve past this can enjoy a lot of benefits, as it allows you to explore the impact of the supernatural activity on a relationship. (For example, see Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson in the Insidious films.) The Other Side of the Door passes that by with only the slightest nod, which is probably for the best since Sisto and Callies have the chemistry of two logs rubbing against each other in a lumber pile. It is slightly interesting that Maria’s initial reaction to Oliver’s reappearance is not fear, but nurturing, in an “I love my dead ghost son” sort of way, but that gets quickly shifted aside.
When the horror does finally kick in, we’re forced to deal with a series of frustrating, unresolved scenes in which something feels like it’s about to happen, the mood tenses up, the strings tug, and then… a character off-screen says something, someone gasps, and then we snap back to reality. Every single time, like playing a scale without the eighth note. A better film would use this kind of suspended resolution to keep the audience in a state of discomfort, or to lull them into a false sense of security. The Other Side of the Door does neither. After the second or third time this happens, you assume this is just how the film is going to be, and you are correct.
I can’t get through this review without addressing the weird horror-movie racism tropes still prevalent in it.
Although the movie is set in India, the vast majority of Indian people we see are servants, tribesmen, or beggars. They even make the one character with a large speaking role play double-duty, both the maid and the mystic. It’s also somewhat telling that Oliver is only directly responsible for two deaths throughout the film: A dog and an Indian person. And to be honest, the dog gets more development. At first it seemed like there was some self-awareness about imperialism: White people come to India, observe the spirituality when it’s convenient for them, but ignore the actual rules and tenants in practice, destroying everything in the process. My best evidence for this is the focus on The Jungle Book in this film, by noted Imperialist shithead Rudyard Kipling. But given the way brown people act as props and set dressing in this film, it seems more likely that any subtext is unintentional and that’s the only book set in India the writers could think of.
There are a handful of things I enjoyed about The Other Side of the Door. The cinematography explores the colonial mansion where most of the film takes place in an interesting and creative manner. Young actress Sofia Rosinsky seems to be the only one able to stand above the horrible dreck twritten for her, and a third-act move gives her a bit more room to play around than just a standard “horror-movie kid” role. None of this offsets the many places where the film falters. Without a shred of originality and unable to complete the most basic of storytelling, this is yet another piece of the genre destined for a future as one out of ten horror failures available on the White Man’s Burden Bundle two-disc DVD set inside of the $5 bin at your local Walmart.Liked This? Share It!