The cast of The Walking Dead – as amazing as they are – have mostly struggled in making the transition to steady feature film careers. Interestingly enough, starring Sarah Wayne Callies, The Other Side of the Door is already the second horror film of the year featuring either a current or a former Walking Dead cast member (The Boy, starring Lauren Cohan, being the other). It’s a logical and natural progression, of course. The timing just struck me as odd.
Regardless, even though Callies lives up to her abilities here and delivers in her performance as Maria, I had problems with her character almost from the very onset of the film.
After surviving a traumatic, terrible accident that presents her with a no-win, impossible choice, Maria has trouble coping. I found her extremely sympathetic during the inciting event and it’s entirely understandable that she would have some major issues to work out in the aftermath. But the choices she makes in doing so remove any compassion the audience has for the character as she makes selfish decision after selfish decision with absolutely no thought put towards how her actions affect the people she is supposed to love.
This took me out of the film. Horror films often feature unlikeable supporting characters so that they can be killed off without bumming the audience out. But the main protagonist needs to be relatable and endearing or there are no stakes and the audience will be actively rooting for the killer or malevolent spirit or whatever it is that’s trying to kill them. That’s how I felt. Maria was entirely responsible for everything after the accident despite being forewarned by more level heads to make responsible choices as she forges ahead. Therefore, I didn’t care what happened to her. Conversely, I felt awful for the poor supporting characters who got saddled with this woman in their lives. This is backwards and not how one should connect to a horror film.
Otherwise, the movie is fine. Maybe a little slow to get going for some people. And it definitely borrows ideas from other horror films – including a number of cliches. But there are also some genuinely frightening moments and images in the back half as well as some unique elements due the film being set in India. It embraces that culture and works it into the story, making it feel a little different.
I also liked the ending. I feel like I should have seen it coming (maybe I was distracted my by loathing of Maria), but I didn’t. And it stopped . . . just . . . short . . . of ruining itself on a couple of levels (much like the film ending of Pet Sematary), so I was glad that it quit while it was ahead.
But none of those things mattered as much because Maria was just such an awful person to spend 100 minutes with. It’s not as though the film got everything wrong; it didn’t, at all. And it’s fine to feature believably flawed characters. But there needs to be a reconciliation between those characters and the potential audience investment. And The Other Side of the Door featured no such reconciliation.
I’ll see you late on Thursday night for one of the biggest released of the year! More Daredevil awaits!