The Other Side of the Door, 2016.
Directed by Johannes Roberts.
Starring Sarah Wayne Callies, Jeremy Sisto, Sofia Rosinsky and Suchitra Pillai-Malik.
After her young son is killed in a tragic accident, a woman learns of a ritual which will bring him back to say goodbye, but when she disobeys a sacred warning, she upsets the balance between life and death.
The Other Side of the Door feels like a vanity project for its producer Alexandre Aja, the French director most known for horror cult classics such as High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes. Aja has been fighting to get a remake of the already once adapted Stephen King beloved novel Pet Sematary off the ground. The latest piece of news to have surfaced is from 2011, meaning as of right now it is dead or in development hell, so attaching himself to this little project was, in his perspective, the next best alternative.
The similarities between the two films are truly striking, both involving psychological examinations of grief and loss to the point where characters partake in supernatural rituals to have one more chance at properly saying goodbye to their loved ones, naive to the danger they’re wrestling with, essentially bringing them back to life in some demonic form. All The Other Side of the Door does is swap the gender role for its protagonist, and replace the Indian burial ground for animals with an isolated Indian temple deep into the forest. That’s not even where the blatant idea lifting ends though, making it a point to copy the ending plot point by plot point.
None of this should really be a problem (after all, instead of outright remaking Pet Sematary, it probably is a good move to take the core concept and present it slightly different), except The Other Side of the Door is just an aggressively annoying horror film that relies on jump-scares even more than most modern scary stories. It desperately wants to explore the character of Maria (a mother played by Sarah Wayne Callies of The Walking Dead, unable to cope with the loss of her son), but since the writing has no idea how to delve into the complexities of her mind, the script just utilizes a bunch of ash-painted Indians running around jolting her at every opportunity. Of course, there are also cliché attempts at creating dread and anxiety, like pianos playing melodies by themselves.
Giving credit where credit is due, Sarah Wayne Callies does deliver a performance much stronger than the material she is given. She seems to be the only person taking the project seriously. You should absolutely check out our interview with her, where she touches on the inspirations behind her performance; eliciting the impression that she signed on to this project prepared and ready to put a memorable character on-screen. It’s unfortunate the writing and direction simply let her down.
One might assume that if you have not seen Pet Sematary, you might find The Other Side of the Door refreshing and original, but it’s really not. If anything, it is just another stale, overwhelmingly boring and predictable entry into an increasingly saturated genre obsessed with the afterlife. The movie tries to generate some excitement and terror by having Maria hallucinate various disturbing scenarios (it could be images of her dead son or cockroaches infesting her and her husband’s dinner), and it all fails spectacularly. The filmmakers even try to conjure up some CGI monsters for Maria to hallucinate, except they look so stupid and forgettable it’s safe to assume that the designs were stolen from a trash bin at the studio for a Silent Hill game.
Towards the end, the experience becomes a little more blunt, focusing more on actually showing the dead than hiding behind paranormal hauntings. Most shocking, is that even when the movie finally earns its R rating by showing deceased corpses and reanimated, dirty possessed children running around, it’s still a lifeless endeavor. Even when the movie starts going for pure shock value, it’s still impossible to shake boredom. The makeup artists however, do deserve a modicum of praise.
The Other Side of the Door is formulaic, riddled with clichés, boring, and will most likely wind up one of the year’s worst horror films. I admire Sarah Wayne Callies for giving her all, but even she can’t mitigate this absolute disaster. There is a reason that there are virtually no TV spots at all airing for this movie, even on the week of its release, here in America. It is utterly awful.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★