Set in India, an American couple living abroad lose their young son, Oliver in a tragic road accident. Stricken with grief, the boy’s mother (Sarah Wayne Callies) is told of an ancient ritual wherein she can bring her son back and say her final goodbye. A door acts as a barrier between these two worlds, a door which she is warned not to open, and a warning, of course, she doesn’t heed.
These sorts of paranormal tales primarily depend upon the unreliable witness. Common ways in which this has been performed in the past is through children, pets and grief stricken parents. All of these have been proven effective in their own ways but the fact that they have been used so many times makes their orchestration risky and very hard to pull off without relying too heavily on cliché. Given that The Other Side of the Door uses all three of these devices; it actually does a surprisingly capable job of staying fresh enough to retain the audience’s attention.
That is not to say that these clichéd tropes are entirely absent: the dog barks into an open space; the child plays with thin air and, of course, the husband does not believe the grief stricken wife and the film is, consequently, weakest in these parts. However, to its credit, the film intersperses these weak spots with enough genuinely scary and foreboding scenes to make this an enjoyable effort.
On the whole the film manages to rely on tension and smart characterisation for its effect, only briefly resorting to cheap jump scares. If one was to find fault then it is Jeremy Sisto’s character, which seems unnecessary, existing purely to question his apparently hysterical wife. Moreover, the explanation for Oliver’s insidious activity is somewhat unconvincing- ‘why isn’t Oliver in heaven’: a searching question asked by daughter Lucy which is sadly never really explored.
The film is built on solid foundations and does an altogether capable job of crafting an authentically scary and enjoyable thriller. Nevertheless, some niggling problems and brief forays into horror cliché stop this from being everything it could have been.
Image: Gage Skidmore; Wikimedia Commons