The Other Side of the Door is one of those horror films where you can tell there’s been some attempt to try and pull away from convention, but what you’re left with is a bizarre, cliched mess. I barely know where to begin with the odd decisions and plot points this film decides to pursue but let’s just take a deep breath and bite into this.
We’re thrown in with the typical happy family beginning, but quickly discover that the death of a child has torn the family apart. The mother cannot cope with the death of her son, which is stopping her from being a proper mother to her daughter. She blames herself because there was a car crash and she left the boy to save herself and the daughter and didn’t manage to get back and save him in time. The Indian servant of the household informs her that should she go to a temple near her village with her son’s ashes, then she will have an opportunity to speak to him one last time. There is one rule however, she can speak to him through the closed temple door but she is not allowed to open it to try and see him. Oooooh I wonder what the plot is going to be? Obviously, ghostly happenings occur down the line and the guardian of the underworld, a many-armed old woman, starts tormenting the mother along with an odd cult of ash covered men. Now let’s get into the real problems here.
We follow the mother throughout, and it seems an attempt has been made to try and get the audience to connect with her, and feel sorry for her and the awful position she’s in. However, all it really succeeds in doing is making her come across as the least likeable person possible. The film opens with her waking from a dream in the middle of the night and feeling remorse at the death of her son. She then turns over to her husband next to her and upon seeing he is asleep, proceeds to smack the hell out of him for being able to. Now I know this is meant to show how upset she is, I do. But it’s hard to take her side, especially when the father comes across as the only sensible person in this film and her hitting him is so pointless. Then, after the father has spoken about how he couldn’t possibly live without her and we see her daughter clearly craving her attention, she attempts suicide. Again I know this is to try and build sympathy but to me she came off as in the wrong again and selfish since we’d just had the previous scenes. Later when she is told by the housekeeper about the temple, she believes it just at the drop of a hat. No disbelief or any sort of scepticism, she just immediately goes to have her son’s remains dug up and burned. All this, without even talking to the father of course. There’s a theme with this woman and doing what she wants regarding the son and not even consulting the father, such as later in the film she burns all of the items belonging to her son without talking to him either, and when he finds out he’s totally distraught. I feel as though I could go on about how poorly written this protagonist is all day so I’ll hold off there, but you get the picture.
The plot mostly relies on jump scares. Now I, for one, hate jump scares because at the end of the day, they aren’t scary. Scary is that eerie feeling that sticks with you afterwards and makes you not want to sleep. Steven King is very good at this. Jump scares on the other hand are an automatic reflex that causes you to jump and then a filmmaker can claim they scared you. On top of that there’s cliche after cliche. The dog knows what’s going on way before the family, there’s a scene where a little girl has her back to the camera as someone approaches her, characters often slowly look around a room and we get a first person slow pan, everyone believes things at the drop of a hat except the father, father thinks mother is crazy rather than there’s ghosts, the son’s room for no reason other than atmosphere is in the attic at the top of a flight of stairs. And so on.
Now I know I’ve well and truly slated this film, but It’s by no means the worst film I’ve ever seen. There were a few decent moments in this, most notably the underworld guardian that serves as the monster is rather inventive, and the way her presence distorts the world around her is rather impressive. However we don’t see nearly enough of this which is a further disappointment. The make-up and special effects were flawlessly done, to an amazing standard, and the setting and tone of the film was all really well suited. All of the cast including the children played their roles to a high standard that didn’t leave you cringing in the acting department.
All in all, a film that tried to show initiative and has a good cast and effects crew but lets itself down by adhering to too many modern horror cliches and not having the script convey what the writer was clearly trying to. Give this one a miss unless you want something you can’t take all that seriously, but come on, we all like bad horrors sometimes.
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