Stars: Sarah Wayne Callies, Jeremy Sisto, Sofia Rosinsky, Suchitra Pillai, Jax Malcolm, Javier Botet, Logan Creran | Written by Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera | Directed by Johannes Roberts
Dammit Johannes Roberts, why did you have to disappoint so? I absolutely ADORE his 2010 film F (aka The Expelled) and – even though its a Noel Clarke film - Storage 24 wasn’t that bad either. So hearing that Roberts had the chance to helm a studio movie, a horror at that, set in India with its vast religious culture and strange chaotic lifestyle, AND produced by Alexandre Aja… It’s safe to say I was excited for The Other Side of the Door. Even more so after Sarah Wayne Callies was cast in the lead – I’m a huge fan of hers, ever since the Prison Break days. So what went wrong?
Grieving over the tragic loss of their son Oliver in India (shown in the films one effective, and horrifyingly emotional, scene) where the family antiques business is based, Maria hears of a dark rite that will let her to say goodbye to her dead child and hopefully find closure. Without her husband Michael knowing, she travels to a remote temple where the veil between the netherwold and the living one is thinnest. But unable to contain her emotions she breaks the most important ritual commandment allowing the spirit of the evil goddess Myrtu to roam the earth once more…
The idea of taking the tropes of J-Horror and applying them to another country, in this case India – using the setting and the religion to create something new in the genre is commendable. As is using American actors: the displacement, the language barrier, it all works to create an unsettling mood. It such a shame then that The Other Side of the Door ends up feeling nothing more than a generic Hollywood fear flick. Maybe it’s because, even though the setting feels fresh and new, the film itself is derivative of a number that have come before; in particular the American remake of The Grudge and Eduardo Sanchez’s Seventh Moon. Both of which cover very similar territory to Roberts’ film.
Even utilising the Hindu goddess Kali, renamed Myrtu here no doubt as to not offend religious sensibilites, (though why not Murti – the physical representation/recreation of a deity), fails to excite – the design instead echoing what has come before. Hell, Roberts even admits the the monstrous Mama was something of an influence on the look of his monster and he even cast the same actor, Javier Botet, in the role. The only real villianous interest is the Hindu sect known as the Aghoris, who apparently live in cremation grounds and smear themselves in the ashes of the dead in the hopes of somehow getting closer to the dead. They could have been a real deep tie to Hindu religion, and I hoped they’d be used as something of a deus-ex-machina in the film, but instead they’re completely wasted, appearing often as little more than this films “ghosts”, terrorising Callies mother with their pointy fingers of doom.
Ultimately, the problem with The Other Side of the Door is that it’s nothing we haven’t seen before – even most mainstream audiences will recognise the influences on this film. And without any particularly scary or gory action it certainly won’t appeal to hardcore genre fans. So who is left? Teenage girls. Again. Yep, another one – like The Forest – for those too young to see the film legally but who’ll watch it on Netflix and be terrrified of the jump scares, not knowing any better.
A decidedly disappointing and average studio horror, The Other Side of the Door is released across the UK on March 4th.