UK Release Date: 4th March 2016
Runtime: 96 minutes
Director: Johannes Roberts
Writer: Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera
Starring: Sarah Wayne Callies, Jeremy Sisto, Suchitra Pillai-Malik, Sofia Rosinsky, Logan Creran, Javier Botet
Synopsis: A grief-stricken mother travels to an Indian temple in an attempt to have one last conversation with her dead son and unwittingly unleashes a malevolent presence using his image.
The early part of 2016 has been something of a dumping ground for decidedly lacklustre horror movies, including The Forest. Hopping pretty cleanly on to the back of that disappointing genre trend is The Other Side of the Door, written and directed by British filmmaker Johannes Roberts, in which a white American family runs into severe problems in their Indian home and an entire world culture is reduced to hiding in shadows and supernatural superstitions.
Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) has become depressed and crippled with guilt after the death of her son Oliver (Logan Creran) in a car accident she survived. Unbeknownst to her husband Michael (Jeremy Sisto), Maria travels to a hidden temple in the woods on the advice of Indian housekeeper Piki (Suchitra Pillai-Malik). At the temple, Maria is able to have one last conversation with her son through a door that separates the real world from the afterlife. However, when Maria opens the door, she unleashes the dark force of afterlife guardian Myrtu (Javier Botet) and an evil spirit presence.
Anyone who has seen more than a couple of horror films over the last five years or so will already be able to predict the events of The Other Side of the Door almost beat for beat. It’s a film that adheres so closely to formula that it appears completely bankrupt of creativity or originality. The jump scares have been worn out over years of constant use and the “creepy kid” idea has more than run its course, especially given how cheaply it is deployed in this film.
His soul is going to rot until he goes back to the land of the dead.
Sarah Wayne Callies does an admirable job of trying to hold everything together, but there’s simply nothing to her character. She’s simply a cipher – an anonymous bereaved American woman whose misuse of spiritual tools leads her down a path towards death and destruction. The same is true of the rest of the cast, with Jeremy Sisto given laughably short shrift as a character who may as well be called “skeptical husband” and Sofia Rosinsky managing only glimpses of innate talent as the daughter who exists only to be menaced.
Those characters, however, are treated wonderfully by Roberts’ script when compared to Suchitra Pillai-Malik as housekeeper Piki. She exists only in the background, occasionally emerging from the shadows to issue a foreboding warning or a nugget of spiritual guidance. This is a film in which the Indian characters are often mere set dressing for the white people’s predicament. One scene, involving a chase through the streets of Mumbai, literally sees the local residents standing still like props as the drama plays out. Native characters are either spiritual advisors, impassive observers or crazy devotees who smear ash over their faces in worship of the dead. The Other Side of the Door seems to have real contempt for its setting.
All of that could be forgiven if The Other Side of the Door actually worked as a horror movie. Unfortunately, there’s barely a single scare that works on any level. The effects-driven appearance of creature specialist Javier Botet (Mama) as the multi-armed demon Myrtu is disarmingly creepy when it finally gets the chance to appear, but it is soon discarded in favour of the lame shocks that are the film’s bread and butter. It’s a film that occasionally flirts with uniqueness, but soon runs scared back into the arms of “cattle prod” scares.
You’re making a mess on the floor… mummy will be mad.
It must be said that The Other Side of the Door has some advocates. Kim Newman, in Empire Magazine, called the film “a solid haunting-possession movie” and praised its local colour. However, the film just didn’t grab me and limped through a runtime that felt considerably longer than its 90 minutes. The premise feels culturally insensitive, the characters simply don’t exist and the scares fail to leave any impact.
Pop or Poop?
Brit director Johannes Roberts reverts to horror by numbers in The Other Side of the Door, which transplants the American suburban family into a completely different country, only to repeat the same scares that befall them in every horror movie of the last decade. There’s little imagination on show, which gives the talented cast very little room to make any sort of magic.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.