“The Other Side of the Door” is a lot like last year’s “The Lazarus Effect,” another movie dealing with the resurrection of the dead. Both movies have up and coming directors at the helm and a cast of talented actors eager to dig deep into the material. But while each movie gets off to a solid start to where we are utterly enthralled, they get weighed down by clichés and an inescapable familiarity which turns them into utter disappointments. What starts off as promising eventually becomes something stale and unoriginal, and “The Other Side of the Door” quickly becomes the kind of movie we have seen one too many times.
We are introduced to Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Michael (Jeremy Sisto), a loving American couple who decide to set up roots in India. But their joy of living in a foreign country is forever destroyed when their son Oliver (Logan Creran) is killed in a tragic car accident, and Maria cannot find a way to ease the pain of such a devastating loss. Their housekeeper Piki (Suchitra Pillai-Malik), however, tells Maria of a way she can say a last farewell to Oliver, and it involves spreading his ashes on the stairs of an ancient temple which is said to be close to the underworld, and she has to close the temple’s door and spend the night there. Eventually, Maria hears Oliver’s voice on the other side of the door and gets to talk to him one last time.
There’s a little catch to this plan though; Piki tells Maria that she cannot under any circumstances open the door during this conversation. You don’t even need to guess what happens next. Maria does indeed open the door, and in the process creates an unbalance between the worlds of the living and the dead. As a result, Oliver is brought back to the living as a ghost, and a horrific god gets unleashed who will soon wreak havoc on Maria and her family.
Like I said, this movie gets off to a promising start as it takes the themes of death and resurrection and applies mystical powers to them in a way I haven’t seen before. Usually in this genre the dead are buried in a sacred Indian ground or brought back to life with some amazing potion, but “The Other Side of the Door” takes a slightly different approach as it deals with mysticism. This helps to make it stand out from other movies of its type, but unfortunately it becomes bogged down by a familiarity which renders it average at best. In these movies the dead come back, and they are never the same as when they were alive. You know the drill.
It’s a shame because the actors cast here do terrific work in creating a believable couple trying to get through the worst thing any parent could ever live through. The real standout here is Sarah Wayne Callies who plays Maria as she makes her character’s pain and vulnerabilities all the more palpable. Best known for her work on “Prison Break” and “The Walking Dead,” she gives a really strong performance which is emotionally raw to where you cannot help but feel for her even as she makes big mistakes. Callies makes this movie worth watching as she almost makes you forget about what’s wrong with it.
“The Other Side of the Door” also benefits from the presence of Jeremy Sisto who plays Maria’s husband, Michael, as he makes him the kind of loving spouse anyone would be lucky to have. Like Callies, he brings a strong human presence to this movie as Michael does what he can to rescue Maria from her infinitely deep depression. Whereas most movies would have had this character acting like an ineffectual buffoon, Sisto makes Michael a believably decent human being who is trying to do the best he can.
But after the movie’s first act which has Oliver’s ghost begging for his mother to read him Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book,” it descends into “Pet Sematary” and “The Lazarus Effect” territory as the resurrected dead end up terrorizing those who loved them the most. Director Johannes Roberts, who previously directed the critically acclaimed thriller “F” and the sci-fi horror film “Storage 24,” does give us a number of undeniably creepy moments, but even he is unable to transcend this material which is all too familiar to horror movie fans.
When “The Other Side of the Door” reaches its conclusion, it ends on an ambiguous note like many horror movies do, but it just makes the whole movie feel more routine than it already is. All these movies about bringing the dead back to life always have the most innocent characters coming back as something purely evil, and they are filled with others who constantly stare at the protagonists as if to say, “You really screwed up and we’re not going to let you forget it.” It’s a shame because the movie had a lot of promise and some terrific performances, but in the end it just feels like the same old thing and becomes much less frightening as a result. Better luck next time.
Copyright Ben Kenber 2016