We see so many American horror films set in suburban houses, populated by brash teenagers having fun, that it’s easy to forget there is a whole other world out there. And the omission is all the more shocking when you think of some of myth and the ghost stories that other countries have – as a child, I spent many an hour reading through books on the paranormal, so I know that there is an abundance of scary stuff out there. This local flavour is one of The Other Side of the Door’s best aspects, and helps bring a bit of life to what is otherwise a middling ghost tale that we’ve all seen before.
The film follows a couple who have relocated to India. The mother, Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) has become consumed with guilt after the death of her son, Oliver (Logan Creran), in a car accident. One night, her housekeeper tells her about an ancient Hindu temple that functions as a connection between the worlds of the living and the dead – visitors are able to communicate with the dead and say goodbye for a final time. Maria goes there and, in her grief, breaks the one rule she was given – to never open the temple’s door, which serves as a portal – and in doing so, she allows Oliver back into the mortal world. His spirit, of course, gradually starts to become corrupted.
This is a story that you’ve seen before (something that stuck me right away was that we were essentially watching Stephen King’s Pet Sematary in India) and it doesn’t really add anything new. Its familiarity means that it needed to play on its frights a bit more, and it doesn’t. There is a lot of build-up (which is necessary to convince us that Maria is so desperate that she would go to the temple) and in order to keep the idea of horror in your mind, it relies on jump scares in which mysterious men smearing ashes appear.
Come the second half, however, and things change for the better – when Oliver is brought back, seemingly innocent, the tension starts to build and build. This works in part because of the excellent work of Callies in building her character, and the ways she must develop in relation to her changing son. Although the horror itself is a bit hokey, we are certainly emotionally invested in the story as it reaches its finish.
I’ve mentioned the spirit of Oliver, but another monstrous presence in the film is the Myrtu, an ancient evil goddess and incarnation of Death that is coming to claim him. The Myrtu, a scraggle of cracked limbs and pasty flesh, is played by Javier Botet, who also played the eponymous creature in Mama – it appears at random and alarming points, more for horror value than anything else. It is always pursuing, even though it seems to pursue sporadically at best.
It is one issue in a film with a number of them – take, for example, the character of Peki, the housekeeper. Throughout the film, she is a rational presence, always telling Maria what needs to be done and encouraging her not to let emotion get in the way. Is it fitting, then, that she dies doing exactly that – giving into a moment’s emotion and being slaughtered as a result? No, it doesn’t fit right. You’ve got to love the comical husband figure too, and how he manages to be out of the house all the time when hauntings are going on.
The Other Side of the Door is average fare, nothing that particularly stands out from the crowd. Despite some decent character work, it is not massively scary and suffers from a climax that seems more rushed than earned. It was okay to watch, but really rather forgettable.
Director: Johannes Roberts
Cast: Sarah Wayne Callies (Maria), Jeremy Sisto (Michael), Sofia Rosinsky (Lucy), Javier Botet (Myrtu), Logan Creran (Oliver), Suchitra Pillai (Piki)
Running Time: 96 Mins