Director: Johannes Roberts
Cast: Sarah Wayne Callies, Jeremy Sisto, Sofia Rosinsky
Spoilers Within: Yes
Originally posted 7th July 2016 on Letterboxd.
Shot entirely on location in Mumbai, India, The Other Side of the Door tries – at least a little – to be a different blend of horror and tragedy. It’s not all failures, but it never amounts to much more than a trope filled tick list in the ever-growing tally of pointless contemporary horror.
The small cast do a pretty stand-up job of their clichéd roles: the hysterical, grieving mother (Sarah Wayne Callies); the calm, loving father (Jeremy Sisto); the mystical POC (Suchitra Pillai); and the young, soon-to-be-possessed daughter (Sofia Rosinsky) who you just know. It’s worth regarding their acting as being above-par for a spiritual horror of this type because usually, the first sign of a shitty horror is the abysmal acting, but they fill out their characters to the best of what they’re given, which isn’t a whole lot.
I don’t buy into everyone’s problems that the mother acts foolishly or out of character. This is a lady that was already established as coping with severe grief: having violently physical responses to nightmares and seeing things in the light of day. As we’re the ones looking in on this behaviour it’s easy to say it’s crazy that she opens the door to the church after being explicitly told not to, but she feels she desperately needs to in order to apologise for the death of her son (I found it much more trivial that she wasted time trying to open the sinking car door than the opening of the church door, but that’s me). After this rule-breaking, she doesn’t seem all that surprised when Oliver’s favourite book falls from a shelf , nor when a chair pulls up next to her to usher her into reading it as a bedtime story, but I’d state that’s because she pieced these occurrences together and realised that this is the eventuality she wanted from the ritual. To not be scared of her own dead son seemed pretty reasonable to me.
There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but what it does is set up an efficient and often effective ghost story of a family slowly torn apart by a young death. It’s replete with minute horror moments: shadows cast against bed curtains; hidden shapes in the dark; forms revealed by lightning; the majority of which are thankfully unaccompanied by loud, unwelcome audio cues endemic of modern horror. These quiet scenes are great (the 20 minutes after the ritual is a fantastically paced and subtle work of horror) – and though not as scary here due to other elements of the film failing to form a cohesive whole – these kinds of ghostly visions are far, far preferable to an excess of bangs and screeches….
…which, unfortunately, The Other Side of the Door can’t help but throw in a handful of. Since writers Johannes Roberts and Ernest Riera displayed restraint for most of it, these jump scares are even more impotent and worthless than usual.
I want to highlight one specific performer above all else, and that’s the 6’7″ Marfan-afflicted Javier Botet. An unfamiliar name to many, but those who know horror will know his unforgettably terrifying performances in films such as [REC] and Crimson Peak. His motion test for Mama is grotesque and easily better than the film it’s a part of. (Watch it here)
The aforementioned restraint, the above-par acting, and the concept of ritualism are all competently realised, so it’s a shame that the film falls into the normal pitfalls and becomes less a sum of its (admittedly decent) parts. It’s good, but there was potential to be much better.