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Writers:Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera
Stars:Sarah Wayne Callies, Jeremy Sisto, Sofia Rosinsky
Michael (Jeremy Sisto) and Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) are on a working vacation in Mumbai, walking along the beach soaking in the sun. Michael must come here three times a year for his work, and suggests they make it their home to raise a family. Maria excitedly agrees. As they talk, a young girl approaches and Michael asks the child if she thinks he and Maria should stay here forever. The girl points to Maria and lets out a blood curdling scream, prompting Maria to suddenly wake up from her nightmare.
We learn that it’s been six years since the couple made Mumbai their home. They have had two children, but only one is still alive. Their son was drowned in a car accident that Maria cannot get past, and when she makes an attempt on her own life, their live-in housekeeper Pika (Suchitra Pillai-Malik), who also lost a child years before, suggests Maria visit an old abandoned temple in the jungle. There, she can speak to her dead son and say a proper good-bye.
To do so, she must exhume the body (which she does) and spread the ashes at the entrance of the temple but under no circumstances–once she’s inside–is she to open the door that separates her from her boy. She agrees, and travels alone by train to the remote location. Once in the isolated, run-down building, she hears her son through a dark door. Upon hearing his voice, she is overcome with emotion. So guess what? She abruptly opens the door and releases the spirit of her son. And a few others.
Directed by Johannes Roberts, The Other Side of the Door is an astonishingly dull movie. A horror film by definition, it subscribes to a very particular notion of what scary means, unwaveringly convinced that jump scares and screeching noises are the only ingredients necessary. Problem is that none of the jump scares have any weight, each of them telegraphed well in advance. And like so many films in this genre, where ghosts haunt a house, ghosts are really more of a nuisance than a threat. Perfectly timed flashes of lightning reveal frightful faces, pianos play by themselves, scratching sounds echo in the halls, and things jump from shadows with no consequences. It goes on and on and never once does Roberts have any fun with it, making the experience feel mandatory rather than innovative. Scenes play out with such deadening familiarity, it becomes numbing as time and time again the most ardent tropes in the genre are doled out in boring repetition. With no other reason than to be visually appealing, though that’s a loose description, we see the most tired horror chestnuts in the book make numerous appearances. Worse, it also plays into the far more insulting ‘mythical foreigners’ and other-countries-are-filled-with-danger clichés that have for too long been part of this genre (including a scary looking beggar suddenly tapping the car window, which must be a stipulation in a Hollywood contract somewhere). This is boilerplate at best.
Of the cast, Callies does the best she can, a desperate mother haunted by a truly horrific accident. That accident is graphically shown though with disappointing effectiveness, as Maria struggles to save her son while the car sinks under water. His screams for help and their inability to free him should have been the crux. It should have been the most jarring and emotional moment in the movie but Roberts just can’t make it work, mishandling every aspect of the moment with forced dialog and manipulation. But fine, that’s what it is. What’s frustrating is the child as horror conceit that at every turn is empty and so overwrought, it’s truly surprising that at this point it is even considered a worthwhile plot. What staggers mostly is the tiresome build-up in these movies where the evil spirits seem to need to go though some rudimentary spooking exercises before bringing out their big guns. We get toys moving about, wooden blocks spelling words, creepy noises and such, and none of it does anything but slightly worry the main characters until the last act when the real deadly stuff kicks in. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a demon jump through the portal and right away start tearing things up rather than go through the equivalent of light stretches before a long run. To be fair, some greats have done this, too, most notably Tobe Hooper‘s Poltergeist, though at least with that film we cared about the characters and the script was clever.
The Other Side of the Door is just one more bland, mediocre horror product squeezed out of the Hollywood machine. While some may like the setting and the easy cheap thrills, the film has very little to offer otherwise. Keep this door closed.