The Other Side of the Door Review
There is a certain degree of suspension of disbelief involved in horror movies. We all know this. You tell the sexy teenagers not to go into the woods, they go into the woods. You make it clear that under no circumstances should a person read from the Book of the Dead, they do exactly that. However there comes a point where you just want people to get some common sense.
In The Other Side of the Door we have Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies), a mother grieving the death of her child. She is told that there is a temple in the Indian forest where she will be able to talk to the spirit of her son through the door of the temple, but she must under no circumstances open the door; and if you can’t guess what happens next then you’ve never seen a horror movie before.
The best horror of the last few years has been independent. The Babadook, It Follows, The Witch, the most effective films have been the ones to build atmosphere and tension with very few jump scares. The problem with mainstream horror is that it’s mostly the opposite, with jump scare after jump scare startling the audience rather than scaring them and diffusing any possible tension. The Other Side of the Door falls into this pattern and for the most part stays there, giving us a series of shocks and clichés so familiar you could almost make a checklist. I will also state that no dog in any horror movie has ever deserved what happened to it.
That’s not saying that the film has no moments of creepiness or tension, it does, moments where something moves in the background without the accompaniment of a sudden burst of music from the soundtrack, or a quick moment of off-ness that your brain has to catch up with and leaves you feeling slightly unsettled. The problem is that these things are few and far between, it’s almost as if the movie doesn’t trust itself to let those moments sink in and just rushes to the next jump scare out of fear that the audience will get bored.
The death of a child is a difficult situation to play, being the most tragic thing that it’s possible to happen to a family, and it’s one that in too many other films I’ve seen fall into melodrama. Thankfully Sarah Wayne Callies plays the emotion in a way that’s very believable and even as you’re cursing her decision making skills, you can feel and understand the place where her motivation is coming from.
The India setting is an interesting departure, although I can’t speak to the accuracy of the mythology referred to. Having the central family be American in the country due to the husband’s work does make sense from a narrative standpoint, but ultimately it’s little more than a slight scenery change. That said the design of the spirit stalking Maria and family does look interesting, think Kayako from the Ju-On films mixed with a Doctor Who weeping angel. It's also portrayed by the very talented Javier Botet, who has done creature work for films such as Mama, Crimson Peak and the REC series.
Ultimately it’s not that there’s anything wrong with The Other Side of the Door, it’s just that there’s nothing new here. It doesn’t have any kind of staying power and whilst viewing it you might be entertained and enjoy those little moments of creativity that shine through, but afterwards it’s just going to blur into other horror movies of recent years.