Tuesday 15 March 2016

The Other Side of the Door (UK/India 2015: Dir Johannes Roberts)

Johannes Roberts' last film, Storage 24, although low budget and only mildly diverting, was a distinct improvement on his previous films which have ranged from the occasionally interesting to borderline unwatchable. The Other Side of the Door is such a progression from Storage 24 in terms of casting, production values and money spent it's hard to believe we're watching the work of the same director.

The Other Side of the Door borrows heavily from Pet Sematary and its literary antecedent 'The Monkey's Paw' to tell the story of an American family in India, trying to piece their lives back together after the tragic death of their young son following a car accident. Mum Maria blames herself as she was driving the car when it left the road and plunged into a river, and had to choose between saving the life of her daughter or her son. Her Indian nanny tells Maria about an ancient temple where the scattered ashes of a loved one can summon up the spirit of the departed, giving grieving people the chance to have one final conversation with them. But the conversation must happen through the locked doors of the temple, and on no account should the person summoning the spirit open the door to try and see their lost loved one...

That Maria does open the door to get a final look at her dead son you can probably predict. From here on in we're plunged head on into evil spirit territory which, with its plentiful supply of actually quite effective 'boo' moments could easily just be business as usual for this type of movie. But two things elevate The Other Side of the Door above the rest of the pack. One is the solid acting from leads Sarah Wayne Callies - best known for her roles in The Walking Dead and Prison Break - and Jeremy (Law & Order) Sisto. Both actors play their roles absolutely straight, resist over-egging the terror, and help disguise any inadequacies in the script. The other factor is the Mumbai setting, which adds a richness to the tone of the movie. To be fair the actual location scenes are a classic bit of second unit filming - the actors only ever appear on an Indian dressed set, which is itself an impressive colonial house mock up. But the Indian setting gives a much needed break from the urban surroundings normally utilised in films like this, and horror regular Maxime Alexandre's photography makes the most of some beautifully lit scenes.

I also liked the climax's refusal to go over the top, which meant that Maria's plight in tussling with evil entities for the safe passing of her son retains its emotional core rather than being simply a noisy final reel.

So Johannes has pulled it off, after quite a few years of trying but failing. Well done, although I suspect he had quite a bit of help. But keep the team together Jo, they're a winning bunch.

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