THE OTHER SIDE (2014)
DIRECTORS: Chris Niespodzianski & Raymond Mongelli III
WRITER: Chris Niespodzianski
CAST: Chris Sullivan, Danielle Lozeau, Christine Starkey
THE OTHER SIDE smacks us right off, up front, with some serious multi-layered en media res by dropping us promptly right the fuck into some kind of threat as evidenced by a frightened woman in the woods and a strange man (oddly favoring Johnny Depp in a well-coifed goatee and ‘stache) telling her he’s not responsible for … whatever the hell is going on. We the viewers also get tossed straight the hell in to a more down to earth relationship drama involving a girl about whom it is asked, “Did she take her meds.” So far, with minimal exposition – lots left to mystery and suspense but plenty already happening amongst the ambiguity and intrigue – THE OTHER SIDE has sent its ball spinning with significant velocity.
Within minutes we find ourselves with the seeds of an enigmatic horror plot anchored and bolstered by simple human melodrama. For its relatively meager $50,000 budget, THE OTHER SIDE summons up some real production value. Technical quality and a slick veneer packaging together good acting and writing worth the acting. THE OTHER SIDE is executed with sharpness. It looks good and doesn’t resist being taken seriously. There are no tech flubs or acting fails, nothing (beyond the accepted preposterousness of the heightened horror reality) to strain credulity. The producers and directors clearly knew how to use their money.
THE OTHER SIDE, in other words, has some polish.
Not every fright flick boasts the benefit of substantive characters and human drama to back its scare tactics. And while I’m not saying THE OTHER SIDE is necessarily on par with George Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD, the latter comes to mind as comparison simply by dint of the broad parallels: substrata of every kinds of character drama transplanted to a more fantastical and terrible reality where bad-beyond-banal sorts of things happen.
With a healthy sized main cast and more than 150 extras, THE OTHER SIDE also gives us plenty of people running, fighting, engaging with each other in various and sundry ways, and otherwise being harried by the undead – as well as the antagonistic living. Diversity of settings give the film room to sprawl, without getting ungainly about it, and allows space for all these actors and extras and the characters they portray to move around and do shit.
THE OTHER SIDE puts as much stock in suspense and action as it does in cameras leering at lurid gore (not that we have any problem with such succulent delights). It’s a thoughtful film, especially for a gutmuncher (and, at the risk of repeating myself, this is a bit more than just gnoshing on innards to fulfill viewer grue quotients). Not only does the personal drama gets as much play as the zombie horror, when the zombie horror does take the reins, it’s more than excuse for tearing open torsos.
The soundtrack is also a noticeable but not invasive character in its own right, shifting from not present, to in the background, to up front and thrusting energy into the more kinetic scenes as well as the emotionally intense passages. Favoring heavy music, the soundtrack gives us a range from fast metal to doomier varieties of hard tunes.
Despite its frequent sylishness, such flares are somewhat paradoxically low key, and the film overall is arid rather than lush. This is either a plus or a minus, depending on tastes, or neither for those who don’t give a shit. It’s a distinctly straight to video flavor, and reminiscent of SOV 80s flavorings, but with considerably more skill and fine-tuning than most of those retro killer chillers. THE OTHER SIDE is B but not bad. It’s not so bad it’s good, either. It’s just good. It’s one of, believe it or not, numerous low budget affairs that disprove the notion that underground horror is definitively not quality.
The cinematography is noteworthy as well. Most of the time it’s subtle but effective, but occasionally THE OTHER SIDE delivers a fine shot that makes you stand up and take notice. A vertically symmetrical shot involving a trail by a lake and two bright-shirted individuals comes to mind.
And of course we cannot go without mentioning the special FX. Though intestine chewing is not the sole focus here – while gory, this is not a “gore film” – there must needs be some zombie make-up and meatiness. And there is. THE OTHER SIDE, while rounding out its story with all the aforementioned non-zombie stuff, never forgets that it is at the end of the day a zombie film. So we do get zombies. And good ones. And we get gore. Good gore. I told you, this is $50K well-spent.
THE OTHER SIDE makes a nice little reference to eco-horror of the 70s with a proffered explanation for the origin of the zombies. This also puts it in good stead in the zombie realm, given that chemical waste, and such like, is one of the staple Causes of Zombie Epidemic in the genre.
I mentioned the film’s aridness. While it maintains an overall arid tone throughout, it becomes reservedly less spartant, executing a slow-burn increase in the intensity of mien. By the climax, pervasive atmosphere has been established, even if it refrains from garish mood dripping down the walls. Such lushness is just fine; I point you to everything from David Lynch’s Blue Velvet to the giallos and spaghetti horror of Dario Argento. But that sort of atmosphere (another example: Hammer’s gothic horrors) is not THE OTHER SIDE’s modus operandi. It unfolds with a certain minimalism appropriate to the blooming post-apocalyptic trends of this relatively subdued, thoughtful and smart zombie tale.
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