The most xenophobic movie to be released so far this year, The Other Side Of The Door is a would-be supernatural thriller that mishandles everything good about its premise and never manages to find a single decent scare.
Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Michael (Jeremy Sisto) are two Americans who have spent the better part of the last six years raising a family in Mumbai. Following the tragic death of their only son, Oliver (Logan Creran), Maria finds herself unable to go on living. Michael takes over the family business, which only pulls him farther away from his grieving wife, and Maria is left to raise the couple’s daughter, Lucy (Sofia Rosinsky), while still grappling with her emotions. When she finally reaches her breaking point, Maria attempts to take her own life, but Michael arrives home just in time to save her life. As she lies in her bed, once again replaying the loss of her son, the family’s live-in help, Piki (Suchitra Pillai-Malik), offers an opportunity for closure.
Days later, Maria packs her bags and abandons her family in hopes of once again speaking to her deceased son. Following an ancient ritual described by Piki, Maria travels to a hidden temple deep in the woods of Southern India and scatters the ashes of her dead son on the steps of the decrepit structure. As night falls, the walls begin to shake and the voice of Oliver comes pouring in through a door Maria has been instructed to never open. She tries her best to obey, but once the voice of Oliver begins pleading for one final embrace Maria cannot resist the urge to hold her dead son once more. She opens the door, hoping that the warning were meaningless, and discovers she is once again alone. Oliver is gone.
Or is he? If you have read this far into this review it is probably safe to assume you can accurately predict everything, or close to everything, that unfolds in the second and third acts of The Other Side Of The Door. As soon as Maria disobeys Piki’s warning a number of increasingly strange things begin to happen around the family’s home in Mumbai. Animals die, plants die, pianos play themselves and some unseen figure comes Lucy’s new best friend. Lucy believes the spirit to be that of Oliver at first, as does her mother, but soon they begin to something more sinister may be inside their home
Meanwhile Michael, who was never informed about his son’s cremation or his wife’s trip to the temple, is unaware of everything that is happening around him. As with any minor character existing in a by-the-numbers ghost story such as this, Michael and others could be saved a wealth of time, pain and heartache if only those who interacted with the spirit had chosen to say something, or anything, about what they had witnessed. That doesn’t happen though, because if it did writers Johannes Roberts and Ernest Riera would have had to come up with a new way for their story to unfold instead of relying on the genre’s most generic twists and turns.
Sarah Wayne Callies does her best to keep the film alive through her performance as Maria, but her character’s continued reluctance to take a single step toward what is a glaringly obvious resolution makes her incredible hard to like. This is not the case for young Sofia Rosinsky, nor for Suchitra Pillai-Malik, who both deliver convincing turns in their smaller roles. Jeremy Sisto is also good, but his presence in the film is incredibly minor when compared to the three women who constantly propel the story forward.
Johannes Roberts, who receives both a credit for direction and a co-writing, does achieve minor success with the way he chooses to present his ultimately forgettable story. Though the plot leaves much to be desired, India itself is breathtaking, and with the help of seasoned horror cinematographer Maxime Alexandre (The Crazies remake, Mirrors) Roberts finds a way to showcase the country in all its beauty. Even the supposed scares, though lacking suspense, are captured wonderfully.
Though it wishes so very badly to break new ground with the same grab bag of orchestral hits and quick cuts that can be found in most unoriginal stories about ghosts, The Other Side Of The Door never amounts to much. You could live your entire life without seeing a frame from this film or reading another word about it and you’re guaranteed to never feel out of place in a conversation about cinema—that is, unless you find yourself seated with friends or strangers discussing the films you wish you didn’t waste your life watching. If that occurs, and it just might, then feel free to toss out this title and watch as those around you shake their heads with the somber nod of agreement that tell you they too regret knowing this film exists. In a year already ripe with lackluster horror, The Other Side Of The Door is impressively bad.