The notion of death, of the final resting place for ourselves and our loved ones, and the appeal of the idea of being able to speak to our dearly departed, is an endearing, universal one. So it’s not surprising that there are innumerable novels, short stories, movies and TV shows whereby characters are given the opportunity to contact the dead, to say our goodbyes, make peace with them or learn the Netflix password.
So maybe it’s because of the abundance of depictions that something like THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR comes across as predictable and trite, and possibly even borderline racist. Set in Mumbai, India, we meet Americans Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies, from TV’s THE WALKING DEAD) and her husband Michael (Jeremy Sisto), who are deciding to stay in India permanently and raise a family. What could go wrong?
We cut to years later, and Maria is a little fucked up in the head. We see they have had a daughter, Lucy (Sofia Rosinsky), and hear about a son, Oliver (Logan Creran). We learn in flashbacks that Maria and the kids had been in a car accident that sent their vehicle into a river, that Maria only had time to save one child, that she chose Lucy, and she has been understandably fucked up ever since.
After an unsuccessful attempt by Maria to overdose on pills, she is comforted by their housekeeper Piki (Suchitra Pillai-Malik), who had lost her own daughter to drowning years before. But Piki had the chance to say her goodbyes to her child; she knew of an abandoned, isolated temple, where, when she scattered her child’s ashes and sat inside the temple at night, her child’s spirit would return outside the temple. Piki offers Maria this chance with Oliver. With one caveat: no matter what Maria hears from Oliver, she must never, ever open the door.
A No-Prize goes to whoever can guess what happens when Maria calls back Oliver. Actually, forget that offer; there are as yet undiscovered tribes in the Amazon who have never seen a movie before, and yet can guess what would happen.
You knew s**t was going to go down when Maria and Piki arrange to have Oliver’s body secretly dug up to be cremated, only to have the boy’s rotted hand pop up, clinging to his Shere Khan toy. There are also these Weird Guys, ashen-faced, chanting Rob Zombie cosplayers, whom Piki identifies as local shamans who are necromancy groupies and can sense what Maria is going to do.
Anyway, Maria returns to her home, where strange and predictable things begin to happen: books fall off shelves, the Shere Khan toy pops up here and there, the piano plays by itself, the dog growls, Lucy talks to her dead brother, Maria has visits from the shamans and visions of cockroaches and a multi-limbed Gatekeeper, who reclaims the souls of the dead to prepare them for reincarnation, and Maria’s idiotic and entirely predictable actions have now tainted Oliver’s soul towards evil…
The rest you can guess. Despite the location, there is nothing in actual Indian belief that would allow for a temple or a ritual like what is described here, and given this, the use of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book as a metaphor, images of beggars in the streets and other clichés, and having a Caucasian family as the centrepiece for this story, there is an uneasy racist sentiment about this movie.
It’s certainly a well-made movie, something that Hammer might have done in its heyday, and the actors are okay with what they’ve got (which isn’t much), and the kids can handle the roles. There are creepy moments, but you see them coming from a mile away.
The movie is available in various formats, and the trailer is below:
Director: Johannes Roberts
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Deggsy. Prefers his dead to be shambling zombies