Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) has relocated to India with her husband Michael (Jeremy Sisto), who's running a restaurant business. The couple is soon blessed with a son and a daughter, but young Oliver (Logan Creran) perishes in a traumatic accident. As she could only rescue daughter Lucy (Sofia Rosinsky) from the disaster, Maria becomes increasingly guilt-wracked and suicidal, prompting housekeeper Piki (Suchitra Pillai-Malik) to let her in on a local secret--she can obtain closure through one last conversation with her son through a closed temple door--which she is forbidden to actually open. You know what happens next.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR comes to us from the Alejandro Aja factory courtesy of director/co-writer (with Ernest Riera) Johannes Roberts (while he's well-versed in television and direct-to-video projects, I believe this is his first theatrical feature). The Indian location allows for original local color and culture (particularly effective are the mystics who coat themselves in the ashes of the cremated and--we're told this even though we don't actually see this--feed on the remains of the recently deceased), and the sequences depicting the accident and the grisly details of the requirements of the ritual are unquestionably harrowing, but of course the film eventually settles into a very familiar "kindertrauma" mode (PET SEMATARY is obvious, but one can also cite the Dan Curtis anthology segment "Bobby" from both DEAD OF NIGHT and TRILOGY OF TERROR II; and even the classic DON'T LOOK NOW is quoted not only with the setup but with a sequence in which Maria pursues the figure of a little girl through unfamiliar streets). And of course there's the obligatory shot in which the concerned parent reaches out with a consoling gesture to the huddled form of what she believes to be her daughter, only to be faced with a nasty little apparition that goes "BLAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!" at her... we haven't seen this since, oh, WOMAN IN BLACK 2?
That said, there's certainly nothing wrong with the execution of the material--the film provides some decent jumps and a lineup of effective performances. Callies is quite strong, while Rosinsky shines without being cloying in the dangerous role of the little daughter who suddenly isn't sure she wants her twin (I think--the movie doesn't make it clear) brother back after all. Oh, and there's one of the better canine performances I've seen recently, but the very fact that the family HAS a dog is ultimately another excuse to say "Well, we know where THAT'S going!" The final ten minutes are quite intense and the fadeout is almost certainly the best way anyone could have ended this story today.
Despite heavy trailer saturation, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR was eventually delegated to "limited release" status. It probably wouldn't be worth the extra miles if you had to travel significantly to see it, but it's certainly worth a convenient look. If you DO see it, however, perhaps you could answer a question? I might honestly have missed something... but if you're not supposed to open the door, how are you supposed to get out of the temple at all?
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