July 13, 2008

Horror Flick Review: The Other Side Is As Much Treacle as Gore

I watch about three or four horror movies per week. Usually, I have some idea of what I’m going to be seeing based upon the description of the movie on the CD sleeve. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. A good example of this was my recent misfortune to rent the movie The Other Side from Netflix. I thought I was getting a horror movie, not a sermon. I was very, very wrong. I hate it when I’m misled as to what the movie I’m going to watch is really about.

I find this happens too frequently for my taste with horror movies. It seems that the religious can’t keep their hands off of my favorite genre. I never seem to know until I watch one of these surreptitiously Christian-themed films what I’m getting myself into.

The Other Side was not just badly acted and poorly written and plain not entertaining, it was like a religious landmine buried in the path of the unwitting. The story could have been interesting; a murdered man escapes from hell along with a number of other condemned souls only to find that his fiancée has also been murdered. He sets out to discover the killer who did in both himself and his wife-to-be. In the meantime, he and the other escapees must do combat with the Reapers, demons who have been dispatched to retrieve the escaped souls by blowing their brains out with firearms. OK, not exactly rocket science and not likely to win any awards, but it could have been the basis for an entertaining 1½ hour flick.

Alas, the writer and director weren’t satisfied with that. They were going to deliver what they seem to have thought a profound religious message. Thus, 40 minutes into the flick we have our hero stumbling into a church and praying for forgiveness. He must confess his sins before God to win salvation from "the pit." The Reapers, you see, are almost impossible to kill. Oh, you can shoot them and they will fall down, but they can leap into any other dead body that happens to be lying around and then start the chase again. Only with divine intervention and forgiveness for his sins can that hero win entrance to heaven. The end of the movie is telegraphed from early on; it's clear how this all has to come out, provided that the viewer has a minimum of six firing synapses.

The viewer soon finds out that Jehovah has been planning for the big escape from hell all along! Two of the escapees who accompanied our hero were actually angels who were put there with foreknowledge of the events that would transpire. All of a sudden, we find out that one of the big scary escapees is a good guy, amidst soaring music and his big bald head silhouetted against a blue sky replete with puffy clouds. We also find out that the murderer was our hero’s brother (shades of Caine and Abel, anyone?) out to get at their parents' fortune, and that he had mom and dad brutally murdered for the same reason years prior. But it gets sappier still!

In the end, the hero dies. Even though he has committed a murder earlier for which he was never convicted, he has asked forgiveness from the Son-O-God. This is a pass into heaven (because faith is more important than actions to those who live in a world of wishful thinking) where his dead girlfriend is waiting for him in a lake surrounded by waterfalls and bright white light and, apparently, angelic choirs. She delivers a little speech about how wonderful God is and the power of redemption through Christ. Then, as the music soars again, they share a sloppy open-mouthed French kiss. The music soars some more the bright light increases in intensity and… I couldn’t watch anymore. Seriously, I was beginning to get nauseous. This is a horror movie? Yuck. Perhaps there will be a sequel involving sanctified personal lubricants and cherubic fluffers. I might actually want to watch that.

Honestly, I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to see one the ability to view religiously-themed films. Not in the least; everyone should be able to watch whatever floats their boat. If you want to watch porn, watch porn. If you desire to be clubbed about the head with ham-fisted religious messages — even inconsistent ones that wind up with couples having premarital sex in a clearly Christian Eden-like afterlife — go for it. By the same token, I’d like to know when I’m about to watch such a film so I can find opt for more fitting fare. This sort of saccharin pseudo-horror flick really does nothing for me other than upset my stomach. Zombies? Not so much. I can watch them chew on a leg bone all day long and not want to return lunch. Why not let people know when the subject matter of a film is going to be preachy? Is it because the directors honestly think they might win converts with a low-budget DVD like The Other Side? Are they just kind of dumb and don't realize that such junk is best kept out of the hands of heathens like myself who are bound to rip the tripe into bits at any opportunity? I don't get it.

Every so often, perhaps once or twice a year, I get suckered. This time I wound up watching (most of) The Other Side. Previously, I’ve gotten stuck with other religious turkeys like 2003’s 13 Seconds and 2005’s Evil’s City. Neither of these two abysmal flicks advertised their religious intentions either and in both those cases I also can away feeling like the Holy Ghost had just relieved itself into my eye sockets. Not a pleasant sensation. While The Other Side was a bit better technically than those other two stinkers, it wasn’t by much and certainly not by enough to make up for cheating me out of time that could have been used to watch an actual horror flick.

If you’re in the mood for a sermon with gunfire and lots of exploding blood squibs, maybe The Other Side will be to your liking as much as it wasn’t to mine. Enjoy the guts and treacle. If you’re like me and don’t appreciate being preached at, give this one wide berth.

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