The concept of something sinister lurking behind a mysterious door serves as not just a very familiar image for any horror fan, but also the perfect metaphor for being on the precipice of the unknown, wondering what lies beyond the hidden veil. The Other Side of the Door, for obvious reasons, hinges greatly on that concept’s inherent terror on a large thematic level, one that mirrors that themes of Stephen King works like Pet Semetary in terms of failing to fight the temptation of looking beyond the mortal realm and risking everything to find out what is behind hidden passages. That idea sounds pretty promising and shows off a lot of genuine pathos when it wants to. Unfortunately, that pathos only goes so far to endear us to our lead character, as each decision of hers becomes less rooted in relatable curiosity and grief & into contrived selfish nonsense.
Said lead character is Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies), a mother living in India with her family who’s going through a tough time. After a car accident that forced her to save her daughter Lucy over her trapped son Oliver, Maria is becoming more and more depressed. Her husband Michael (Jeremy Sisto) tries to keep her together, but when Maria attempts suicide due to her grief, it sends the family into a genuinely concerned state. Seeing Maria’s depressed hopelessness rise, the family housekeeper Pika (Suchitra Pillai) reveals to Maria that she can find closure with her dead son by preparing an ancient ritual that will allow her to communicate with Oliver in a forgotten stone temple through a literal doorway to the world of the undead. However, there’s only one rule Maria must obey; no matter what she hears on the other side, she can’t open the door or risk unknown consequences from the other realm. Of course when Maria hears Oliver being pulled back to death, she can’t help but strive to get a few extra minutes with her son, only to find that there’s nothing there she can see. As she returns home though, Maria starts to notice some mysterious antics that indicate something followed her when she opened the door.
The Other Side of the Door is a film that commits an extremely unfortunate sin in the scheme of storytelling: it peaks far too early. In the first ten or fifteen mintues, we get a full understanding of this family’s loss through Maria’s severe depression with highly effective visual filmmaking. We don’t get exposition filled monologues where Maria reveals what happened to her son or extensive moans about the specifics of her depression. Instead, the limited dialogue is direct & relatable, wonderfully conveyed by director/screenwriter Johannes Roberts and lead Sarah Wayne Callies who further proves that she was better than what underwritten groan worthy arcs she was given on The Walking Dead. However, much like The Walking Dead, The Other Side of the Door fumbles through its initial potential with the accuracy of a blind football player trying to catch a pass. Once we get the initial relatability of the Maria character, her actions immediately become progressively more and more boneheaded, risking the lives of her family for the sake of a connection that she can clearly see is harmful. It would be one thing if there was an ounce of confliction showcased by Maria as her interactions with a ghostly apparition that could be her son and the lack of time she’s spending with her living family. But no. Instead, every other character is secondary to the point of being props for contrivance, whether it be the consistently monotone Lucy being haunted by the apparition directly, the completely absent Michael literally having no idea of anything that’s going on or the one sensible character Pika who ends up getting met with dismissal that makes not a single logical sense given her established connection to the spiritual. It all just makes Maria into not just an unlikable character, but one with a nonsensical selfishness that provides little to no reason to invest in her as the film goes along.
Then again, The Other Side of the Door could easily make up for all of this with some impressive scares and a solid sense of atmosphere. To its credit, there are a few early moments involving Maria in the actual temple that add a sense of ominousness to the setting, giving us that build up of mystery. Plus, creature master actor himself Javier Botet appears as yet another creepy bone skinny monster, which is well design and owns the film’s few actually creepy moments. Yet, for the most part, the film is filled with the typical jump scares of a mainstream horror or incredibly botches attempts at building suspense that honestly come off as goofy. This is blatantly laughable during many scenes involving the mysterious tribesman who follow Maria around following her ritual, which comes off as slightly xenophobic and even more goofy with their sudden appearances that feel straight out of a parody of Batman’s sneak attacks rather than horrific on any level. The story barely even takes advantage of the impeccably designed setting for interesting scares, utilizing India in only a few scenes that become part of the generic foreshadowing via dream sequences gimmick that gets old quickly. So, the actions of Maria are made even more infuriating when they’re just there to propel scares that rarely ever become effective.
The Other Side of the Door feels like a brand new car taking a wrong turn during a road trip. Initially, the drive is smooth and shows a lot of promise. Then, within moments, you’ve realized that the car lead you off the main road and to a dead end that’s massively disappointing compared to the route your GPS gave in the first place. Basically, after so much potential with the set up and a few of the creepy visuals, the film completely derails thanks to poorly constructed scares and a main character who slowly turns from identifiably distraught to a bone headed moron that makes selfish decisions that shut out her family more than actually protect them. It’s a shame that Callies can’t get away from playing poorly written mother characters, as the early scenes of this prove that she’s far more talented than roles like this or Lori Grimes deserve. Hopefully, there’s another more interesting role waiting for her on the other side of a different door… or at least a more interesting one.
The Other Side of the Door: (2 / 5)