*. A young couple lose their child in a tragic accident. Later, they learn of a secret temple where the line between the living and the dead is thin. They are warned of the dangers: “No matter what you do, you must not open the door.” They open the door. This “upsets the balance between life and death.” Shit happens.
*. No, it’s not Pet Sematary. Or really any one of a number of horror movies with the same plot going back to “The Monkey’s Paw.” But it’s something very similar.
*. At this point you may be expecting me to write The Other Side of the Door off as just another horror film mining various other horror films, from classics to J-horror and the neo-haunted house genre. This it is, but there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Now I’ll admit I went in with very low expectations, but still.
*. The main wrinkle to the story this time out is that it’s set in Mumbai, and the door is located in this spooky abandoned temple. When Maria opens the door (oh yes she does!) she not only gets her dead kid back from the underworld but also unleashes a god of the dead known as Myrtu.
*. I wish there were more to Myrtu, but he or she (I missed the gender) is just the usual disjointed, clattering figure we saw crawling up and down the stairs in such films as The Grudge. He’s even played by Javier Botet, who was the emaciated Medeiros at the end of Rec and the Crooked Man in The Conjuring 2. He has what has become a very popular look.
*. Critics complained about the stereotypical depiction of modern India, and that is a problem. The film almost seems set in nineteenth-century Bombay, and it’s sad the only local we meet is the wise woman Piki. This, in turn, is another conventional horror role: the ethnic figure who has a special knowledge of black magic, voodoo, or some other exotic belief system that threatens the bourgeois domesticity of the White World.
*. Not that she is recognized as such. Maria believes Piki’s story about the temple that acts as a gateway to the land of the dead, and later has this verified when Oliver comes back, but when she starts seeing demons and other bad things happening she brushes off Piki’s advice about what she has to do as so much crazy talk. Huh?
*. Of course it’s Piki who has to pay the ultimate price for Maria’s pigheadedness. And of course that is racist. But it’s a racist convention. Like the black guy always gets it. Or those coloured people I mention who always seem to know what’s going on but whose knowledge doesn’t help them in the slightest.
*. So, no, there isn’t much new going on here. The ghost moves things around the house. It plays piano by itself. The family dog knows something is wrong but is about as good at communicating this as the Hindi help. Still, it’s not a bad little ghost story in the usual vein. Director Alexandre Aja is a competent genre technician even at his least inspired (which I think he was here). And Sofia Rosinsky is excellent as Lucy, singlehandedly taking the whole film up a notch. My advice: keep your expectations low, don’t expect any surprises, and you should find it adequate.