Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Other Side of the Door (2016): Review

The Other Side of the Door is a 2016 supernatural horror film. Directed by Johannes Roberts (Storage 24, F) and starring Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead) and Jeremy Sisto (Wrong Turn). The film was produced by well-known French director Alexandre Aja (Haute tension, The Hills Have Eyes).

Maria (Callies) and Michael (Sisto) are an American couple living in India. They are recovering from a tragic car accident in which Maria Was forced to choose between her children Lucy and Oliver, in which Oliver drowned. Wracked with guilt, Maria takes an overdose and, whilst recovering, her housekeeper Piki tells her about a special temple where “the line between the living and the dead is extremely thin” but warns her to never open the door. Maria travels to the temple where she is able to commune with her dead son and, of course, ends up opening the door and releasing his spirit back into the world of the living. Oliver returns to the family home to haunt Maria who must return him to the world of the dead before the gatekeeper comes to reclaim him.

Not knowing too much about the film before watching it, I was pleasantly surprised to see the film was set in India. Whilst still very much an American production, the Indian setting was refreshing and gave a slightly new twist to the classic ghost story approach. The tragic atmosphere surrounding the death of a child put me in mind of the great foreign films by Guillermo Del Toro and Hideo Nakata. Roberts shows real attention to detail in the direction and the weaving and swooping of the camera through the vast family home kept the tension ramped up and added to the payoff of the many jump scares throughout the film.

I can’t say I was completely comfortable with the portrayal of the Indian characters as superstitious, spiritualists at best and cannibalistic shamans at worst. Given the redundancy of the Michael character, I felt there was definitely room for another Indian character that was not drawn quite so much with racial stereotype. Some have criticised the amount of jump scares in the film and, I will admit, as the film progresses the number of scares in general is far too much, with no time to breathe. That being said, I was definitely scared by many of them including the piano scenes, the fountain scene and, in particular, the Gatekeeper character. The multi-armed wraith, surely modelled on the Hindu gods, was really effective and is a pretty fresh creation (if a little similar to Kayako from The Grudge series).

The Other Side of the Door may not be an entirely original setup, but it does stick to tried and tested horror techniques, making for a pretty intense horror experience. Despite the ham fisted approach to the native characters, setting a horror film in India and trying to draw on Hindu concepts of ghosts and the afterlife is a great concept that I’d like to see explored further by an Indian filmmaker. Somewhat of a music video version of greats like The Devil’s Backbone (01) or Dark Water (02), The Other Side of the Door throws a lot at the wall but most of it sticks, and I’ve got a feeling that some of the more clever scares will stick with me for a while too.

**** 4 Stars

What did you think of the movie? Did you like the Indian setting?


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