Well, HERE’s a place to set a horror story! A new place, a new sort of story!
It’s all RIGHT THERE on “The Other Side of the Door.”
Only it isn’t.
Here’s another dead child story with the requisite story beats, the requisite jolts, the requisite tropes. Nothing to see here. Barely even a hint of India, for starters, which is where our unhappy American family has relocated to run their antiques exporting business.
But let’s start with what works. Sarah Wayne Callies plays Maria, a woman so riven by grief that she pummels her husband (Jeremy Sisto) in bed for being able to sleep after their loss.
Maria can’t sleep without nightmares. And she may never be able to “go on” as before. Driving in India she wrecked their car, crashing into a river. She had two children in the back seat. She could only save one.
You don’t have to be a parent to find that scene, her helplessness, her little boy’s cries for help, wrenching.
It’s not something anybody could get over. And Callies (“The Walking Dead”) plays it that way. It’s her best scene and stands out because everything else Maria reacts to in the movie fails to phase her. After you’ve stood down zombies (“Walking Dead”) it takes a lot to frighten you, I guess.
The movie starts to go wrong with the inscrutable, faintly creepy housekeeper, Piki (Suchitra Pillai). She doesn’t seem sympathetic or the least bit touched by her American employer. And yet she reaches out.
“What if I could bring your son back to you just one more time, to say your final goodbyes?”
Maria leaps at the chance and travels to a remote village, wandering into a dead jungle to an abandoned temple. Scatter Oliver’s ashes on the steps, lock yourself inside, and wait. But whatever you do, no matter what Oliver says, “Do NOT open the door.”
Everything else in this, and I mean everything (right up to the cop-out finale) plays according to formula. She opens the door, runs back home, and all of a sudden their surviving child (Sofia Rosinsky) has an invisible playmate, and Maria has to go back to reading bedtime stories to the ghost of Oliver.
And those aren’t a hint of the horrors to come.
A creepy-crawly Indian spirit has been awakened, the Guardians (wild men painted in the ashes of the dead) stare Maria down and bear witness to her transgression. And things die.
A few frights pay off, but most don’t. The performances are TV-series flat — designed for close-ups.
Leaving us little reason to peak at what’s on “The Other Side of the Door.” Horror’s same old same old. In India.
MPAA Rating: R for some bloody violence
Running time: 1:36