I watched two recent releases on cable this weekend, and they are definitely from different ends of the horror spectrum…yet both sort of gave me a 2000-2005 retro vibe. Aftershock is a disaster film/horror hybrid, while The Other Side of the Door is a throwback to the Asian supernatural horror craze. So how entertained was I?
While Eli Roth is a star of this film and co-wrote it, he doesn’t direct. Even so, Aftershock has Roth’s style and tone all over it, reminding me of the days when he was just beginning to make his mark on the horror genre with Cabin Fever and Hostel.
In typical Roth fashion, we meet a group of guys exploring uncharted territory – they’re trying to score chicks in Chile! Simply because we know this is an Eli Roth film, we are a bit anxious wondering what fate awaits these naïve tourists. Otherwise, we’re basically watching a light teen comedy starring a middle-aged cast for the first 35 minutes. The men strike out with comic results (Eli Roth even has a run-in with Selena Gomez), there are montages galore, Eli piggybacks the cute bear in a pool, some dude gets a bust-a-move dance entrance into a club (WTF?), and the men finally hit it off with a bunch of girls.
Then…the earthquake hits. This middle segment is by far the highlight for me, with some campy gore and a comic sequence involving one of the guys trying desperately to chase down…um…something he lost in all the earth-shaking chaos at an underground club.
And then…it becomes Cloverfield, with the friends trying to stay alive both above and below ground as they make their way to a specific location. Finally, if you can consider this horror, the group is terrorized by a bunch of escaped convicts.
Naturally, the baddies aren’t worried about staying alive as the world falls apart – they just want to grab some pussy and kill anyone who doesn’t have one. Eh. I didn’t love the second half of the film all that much.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR (2016)
Perhaps I’m just sick of redundant franchises dominating mainstream horror in the 20-teens (Insidious, The Conjuring, Sinister, Paranormal Activity), because I gobbled up this rather cliché ghost story that brings back memories of J-horror from the early 2000s. Creepy and atmospheric with plenty of jump scares, it had me on the edge of my seat throughout.
Sarah Wayne Callies gives a great performance as a grieving mother who can’t get past the death of her son. For reasons that don’t appear to be explained as far as I could tell, she lives with her husband (cutie Jeremy Sisto) and daughter in a house in India.
Their Hindu maid sees her grief and offers her an opportunity to reconnect with her son one more time for closure. Let me tell you, as soon as the ritual that will bring them back in contact commences, my grieving ass would be like, “FUCK THIS. Let the kid rot in the ground.”
Of course, Sarah Wayne doesn’t do that. She does exactly what her maid tells her not to do…she opens the door through which she is able to communicate with her son for a short time (why haven’t people from the east not learned yet that westerners are dumb as fuck?). After (a cheap jump scare), she goes home feeling good, she feels even better when she gets signs that her son’s presence is actually back in the house, and then…a creepy crawly woman thing from beyond starts showing up. Oh fuck.
The Other Side of the Door may be derivative, but it does Asian horror better than most of the Asian horror that was remade for the U.S. market by the tail end of the fad a decade ago. It’s the perfect little scary movie to watch with a bowl of popcorn, the surround sound cranked, and all the lights out.