A glut of horror movie cliches bask in the sweltering Indian heat in the Alexandre Aja-produced The Other Side of the Door, a slice of India-sploitation that rides on higher thermals than related thrillers thanks to some occasionally striking imagery, one particularly devastating scene, and one peculiar boogeyman. The Walking Dead alum Sarah Wayne Callies is our requisite Western stand-in lead, luckily given more to play with here away from the drama of her bickering ex-cop lovers, as a mother suffering from the guilt of sacrificing her son, Oliver, to save her daughter after the car she’s driving plummets into a river.
Callies’ Maria later attempts suicide, prompting her housekeeper to recommend a visit to a remote abandoned temple where a simple ritual will let her speak briefly to her son in the afterlife, and hopefully give her closure. On the pretext of taking some time away, Maria skips out on her husband and daughter Lucy and takes the train out of the city to follow her housekeeper’s orders. The instructions are easy enough. The rules, not so much. Warned though she is not to break the barrier between the living and the dead, she throws open the temple doors to reach Oliver after hearing his frightened cries. Nothing is there when she does, but when she returns home, something follows her back on the night train, and slowly but surely, the weirdness starts trickling into Maria’s home life.
From there on out we’re firmly planted in haunted house territory. The plot goes about the tedious business of stacking up your seen-it-all-before, whether it’s New England or New Delhi, haunted house cliches. Reappearing children’s toys, moving furniture, unnerved pets, and kids gabbing with phantoms herald the arrival of mysterious wounds to Lucy, terrifying nighttime visions and that most popular variety of dead movie children, the drowned, to scare the bejeezus out of us. Improving upon the general “that’s not your son anymore”-type scares is the herky-jerky approach of a funereal monster and the encroachment of a group of shamans, all intent upon setting things right in their own unspecified and unwelcome ways. The latter two help combat the sense of familiarity and predictability, but they’re elements in search of a better plot than the one they’re stuck with here.