PLOT: Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) and her husband Michael (Jeremy Sisto) live in Mumbai, India with their children Oliver (Logan Creran) and Lucy (Sofia Rosinsky). After Oliver dies in a car crash, a distraught Maria learns of a mystical temple that allows people to connect with their deceased loved ones for a final goodbye, on one condition. Under no circumstances are you allowed to open the temple door during the visitation. Guess what Maria goes and does? By opening the door, she welcomes a cavalcade of horrors into her life as the family home is besieged with the restless spirit of Oliver as well as something much more sinister.
REVIEW: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR is the second film this year (after THE BOY) featuring a Walking Dead star attempting to make the leap onto the silver screen. It works insofar as it showcases Sarah Wayne Callies as a credible lead, but if you’re looking for solid entertainment, you might actually be better off just opening a door in your own house and staring at the other side of it. It’s cheaper and far less derivative.
The primary sin of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR is that literally nothing in it hasn’t been done before, and better. Its drama is just a reverse BABADOOK (Or a gender-swapped CASTLE FREAK. Or a less isolated THE DESCENT. I could go on.), its scares are just swiped from the slop trough at the Blumhouse stables, and its supernatural plot is just a messy hodgepodge of POLTERGEIST, THE EXORCIST, and every post-PARANORMAL ACTIVITY flick you can pin to a dartboard.
By far the film’s most unique element is that it occasionally cribs from an unexpected source: The eerie contortions prevalent in Japanese horror flicks from the late 90’s and early 2000’s. That’s the best the film has to offer: a throwback to musty tropes that we actually haven't seen in a while. Cliché nostalgia isn't exactly an ideal strength for a film, but at least there’s anything even remotely different poking its head through the soil from time to time.
Don’t get me wrong, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR is not a bad movie. It’s not nearly ambitious enough for that. If good horror is a sharp machete and bad horror is a rusty butcher knife, this film is a sheath, dulling the blade so it can’t do any damage either way. There are some solid jump scares, but they are defanged by a total lack of context. Any frightening presence either immediately disappears or turns out to be a trick of the imagination, and any scare sequence that might have a dangerous physical impact on our characters immediately cuts away in the hope that you’ll forget they never actually ended the scene.
It’s like if THE REVENANT had showed a bear leaping out at Leonardo DiCaprio from behind a tree, then had a smash cut to a shot of him fishing. We didn’t see how he escaped, but he’s here now, so why bother wondering?
However, what the film lacks in discernible tension, it somewhat makes up for in design. The family house is an elegantly crafted open-air floor plan that feels warm, homey, and exotic, yet totally exposed. The camera swoops confidently through every room, constantly keeping the outdoors in the background to ratchet up a keen sense of vulnerability. On the whole, every technical element of the film is similarly well-crafted, including Joseph Bishara’s reliably eclectic score. The only factor that just plain doesn’t work is some aggressively abominable ADR that wouldn’t be out of place in a sitcom episode from the early 90’s.
Another thing THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR gets mostly right is the cast. The child actors aren’t unreasonably atrocious, which is always a bonus, but Sarah Wayne Callies really does sell her character’s predicament. Especially in the first act, her performance provides a valuable emotional foothold for the overbaked melodrama. As time goes on and the film puts her through an endless carousel of anemic shock gags, she gets more and more boring, but she could hardly be blamed for that.
The true triumph of the casting department is Javier Botet, notable for portraying the infinitely terrifying Medeiros girl in [REC], who breathes spine-tingling life into a spectacularly well-conceived demonic villain. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get much to do, but any time he’s onscreen the film crackles with electricity.
Essentially, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR is as inoffensive as horror can be. Perfect for Tweeting teens who are too busy finding excuses for snuggling closer together to actually pay attention, it offers very little more than a baseline effort in modern paranormal horror, spruced up only slightly with some bastardized Hindu imagery. If you’ll allow me to get personal for a moment, I got a mild concussion the morning before watching this movie when a heavy palm frond fell on my head, an experience I found much more startling, intense, and ultimately satisfying than THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR.