Sunday, December 23, 2007

THE OTHER SIDE (2006) d. Gregg Bishop

Reviewed by Rick Trottier

Being the director of a film means accepting much of the responsibility for the film’s success or failure. Being the director, writer, editor and one of the producers means the buck stops with you if the film is acclaimed or not. Gregg Bishop took on the mantle of writing, directing, editing and producing THE OTHER SIDE and as a result deserves much praise for a job well done, but must also shoulder some of the blame for the weaknesses in a film that could have been even better.

THE OTHER SIDE is the story of Sam North, who is brutally killed on the night he is to reunite with Hanna, his longtime girlfriend. Sam is consigned to Hell and somehow escapes from “The Pit”, returns to life to solve the mystery of his murder, discover the whereabouts of his missing girlfriend, evade demons called “Reapers” sent to bring him back to Hell and unravel the convoluted twists in a promising existence gone horribly wrong. Along the way, Sam must face bullets, blades, bewilderment and betrayal to find a way through to the Other Side and restart his future.

THE OTHER SIDE has many worthwhile qualities. The multi-layered story has predictable and unpredictable elements that peel back like the skin of an onion, but that twist and turn in delightful ways, leaving the viewer’s mind and emotions fully engaged. The primary characters of Sam, played by Nathan Mobley and Hanna played by Jaimie Alexander are likable and compelling and have a chemistry that is intriguing and tragic. The film is paced effectively, moving along briskly when it needs to, but slowing down at the appropriate times to allow the viewer to reflect, consider and catch their breath.

For being an independent film shot on location in Georgia with a fairly inexperienced cast and a young director-writer-editor calling the shots, many of the production qualities of this film are praiseworthy. Gregg Bishop’s establishing shots and atmospheric photography are very strong and blended with Kristopher Carter’s emotive orchestral score and the intensity of the story, THE OTHER SIDE lives up to its billing as a thriller with dabs of horror and mystery added in for good measure. There is a sincerity to this film’s soul and roots that is palpable and aids even a jaded reviewer in accepting the weaknesses and seeing the overall value of this energetic project. This film does have weaknesses though.

As is the case with most young film makers today, the action sequences are shot too close, edited too rapidly and do not allow the viewer to easily “see” what is happening. What allowed George Lucas’s light saber battles at the end of PHANTOM MENACE to be the best fight scenes in the two trilogies or Yimou Zhang’s HERO to have some of the most exciting fight scenes of all time was the manner in which the photography was done in the “old school” of pulling back so that everything could be perceived. Maybe given time, experience and a bigger budget, Gregg Bishop will be able to shoot action scenes in a more “epic” manner and abandon the “commando” shooting style and the “music video” editing techniques. All these “ifs” are in vain though, for though the action sequences are done with energy and verve, they are a visual flaw in this film.

In addition, casting an actor to be comic relief who is not funny but is grossly irritating was an additional mistake. Cory Rouse’s character Mally was as uncomfortable as sitting in a worsted wool suit on a hot summer’s day after you’ve soaked that suit due to an accident brought on by a neglecting a screaming bladder. Sound appalling and implausible? That was the effect of Mally’s character on this otherwise serious and wonderfully grim and heartbreaking story. The silly, wisecracking “buddy” has run its course and needs to be taken to the glue factory and put down. Somebody please kill it, because it has outlived its day. Like the action sequences, this character detracts from a film that had so many positives.

What does help the viewer to rise above these failings is a small but enjoyable extras menu on this dvd. There is a “Visual Effects” featurette that is interesting, but better still are the “Entering The Other Side” featurette and the Deleted Scenes with commentary. Both of these allow you to see the mindset and choices of Gregg Bishop during the creative process. The “Entering The Other Side” featurette also gives the viewer a chance to hear from cast and crew and see the process of crafting a truly independent feature film. While this extras menu is not a treasure trove of goodies, what is available is worth your time.

Since THE OTHER SIDE is not a horror film, but an action thriller with the elements of a horror movie mixed with a drama-whodunit, it may not totally appeal to “hard core” horror fans, but it will appeal to a wider audience. It will also appeal to viewers who don’t mind treading over some familiar supernatural ground to eventually get tangled in the threads of a pretty good yarn. It is usually the story that determines a film’s success and fortunately THE OTHER SIDE has its eggs in the right basket.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Mark here -- SFS editor and Jerk of All Trades....

I have to second the recommendation of this flick. Watched it last week and had a blast. A lot of fun with good stunts and surprises. I certainly would love to see what the director could do with a bigger budget.