Friday, 27 March 2015


As I write this, Season 5 of The Walking Dead is rocketing toward its finale.
This means there'll be plenty of fans looking for a zombie fix in the months ahead, so this is the prime time to review an upcoming movie featuring everybody's favourite shuffling undead.
I first heard about The Other Side when I saw how well-represented it was at The HorrorHound Film Fest Awards. It was nominated alongside some pretty great films, so my interest was well and truly piqued.
Luckily, after a quick conversation with the very cool guys over at Orchard Place Productions I was able to get my hands on a dvd copy of the movie.
Would it be dead good? Or would this one bite?
Read on...


Dir: Raymond Mongelli III, Chris Niespodzianski
Starring: Chad Conley, Danielle Lozeau, Christine Starkey, Benjamin Sheeler, Robert Liscio, Michelle Cobin, Jack Davis, Chucky Hendershot

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil to much here but read on at your own risk.

The Other Side features a number of interwoven plotlines that are drawn inexorably together.
The main of these features Chris (Conley) a man who wakes up one morning to find his wife and daughter missing. It quickly becomes apparent that both have form for this kind of thing: his wife Ashley (Starkey) is taking medication for a psychiatric disorder while his rebellious teen daughter Cami (Cobin) is, well, a rebellious teen.
After Chris contacts the local police, headed up by grizzled Chief Dodson (Sheeler), Cami is soon discovered but we realise that Dodson has plenty on his plate right now. Ash is just one of a spate of disappearances while Dodson is at loggerheads with the self-centred and selfish Mayor.
Elsewhere parole officer Greg (Davis), a former-criminal who has turned his life around, deals with a group of ne'er-do-wells on the outskirts of town. Among them is the muscular and intimidating Joe (Liscio), who just happens to be Chris's brother-in-law.
Meanwhile, Chris has to deal with a heap of irate messages from Ashley's sister (and Joe's wife) Natalie (Lozeau). It soon becomes clear that the relationship between Chris and Natalie has grown fraught, for as yet undisclosed reasons.
Finally, out in the woods Ashley comes to, bleeding, with absolutely no idea as to how she ended up there. However she is not alone and her decidedly twitchy companion, Chuck (Hendershot) has two pieces of advice for her: keep quiet and run. Why? Because 'they are out there...'
As a series of soft-focus, black-and-white flashbacks flesh out their backstory, the characters find themselves facing a terrifying threat within the surrounding woods. 
Will Chris reunite with Ashley? Why does Natalie dislike him so intensely? And will Chief Dodson discover the truth behind the disappearances in time to protect the students of the local school from the encroaching menace?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): As you can probably tell from reading the above synopsis, The Other Side is an intricately woven tale with a large cast of characters. It's intelligent, though-provoking and, as has become far more common in the zombie genre as of late, it is more about character than spilled entrails.
The story is pretty complex, without ever becoming over-complicated — writer Niespodzianski does a sterling job of juggling each of the separate elements before bringing them together in a suitably satisfying conclusion. The key to this story is the characters. We are presented with a well-rounded, realistic ensemble with clear motivations and arcs — think Lost meets The Walking Dead. The directing really works wonders here, allowing the film to unfold at a deceptively languid pace. While gently ratcheting up the tension with some claustrophobic camerawork juxtaposed with the softer yet ominously foreboding dream-like flashbacks.
The cast is one area in which The Other Side has received plenty of awards, and for good reason. At the heart of the picture we have the family dynamic and lead performances of Conley, Starkey and Cobin alongside Lozeau. Thankfully, they are all superb. Conley in particular has received plenty of praise and it's easy to see why. He is entirely believable as the tortured everyman desperate to protect his family and delivers a performance that is impressively stoic yet also fragile. Astounding work. 
The emotionally lost Ashley is brought to life wonderfully by Starkey. Her character is one that runs the gamut of emotions and she is entirely mesmerising in the role.
The younger Cobin provides a delightfully nuanced performance, ranging from outspoken teen to frightened child. She is most certainly one to look out for in the future.
Lozeau's is a less vulnerable character, providing a fiery toughness in contrast to the more sensitive and sentimental cast around her. The atmosphere between her and Conley is electric and one of the strongest parts of the film.
Of course it would be remiss to discuss the cast without granting praise where it's due to the strong supporting players. Liscio is great as the ass-kicking tough guy, and Davis impresses as heroic Greg. However, arguably the finest performance is the incredible Sheeler. His Chief Dodson is a revelation, tough without being cartoonish, adding pathos without melodrama. I loved his work.
Of course, this is a horror movie and as good as the cast and performances may be, it is the scares that count. I'm delighted to say that, in a genre that has certainly become diluted through overexposure, The Other Side remembers to make its zombies scary. They aren't just a chance to show off some cool decomposition make-up like some other movies are, these are dangerous, frightening and ferocious antagonists. 
A lot of the danger comes from the frenetic and energetic shooting of the attack sequences. This shows that as well as crafting serious brooding drama in the character-building scenes, the team of Mongelli and Niespodzianski can bring it when it comes to the shocks.
However, very few shocks can hit as hard as the very cool twist in the tale. This is a fine ending and one guaranteed to make you want to watch the film all over again. I can certainly think of worse ways to spend your time!

THE WORST BITS: Writing this review is a galling experience because I know exactly what the biggest criticisms of The Other Side will be — and I couldn't disagree with them more. First, several fans of bloodier zombie-fare will find the pace too slow. Yes, the movie does spend a while setting the scene, but how often have I complained about films needing a little more breathing room and taking the time to let us get to know the characters? This move is something that should be applauded, it takes the time to tell an actual story rather than rushing from action set-piece to action set-piece like some shallower and flashier zombie flicks out there (cough, Resident Evil, cough).
Next, there will be some complaints from people saying 'it's a zombie movie, where's all the blood, guts and zombies?'
Sigh. Ok, the zombies aren't onscreen every minute of the film, but when they are, they count. Rather than over-expose the undead they are used sparingly but always to devastating effect. Instead the time is spent getting to know the human characters so when the zombies are onscreen we care a lot more about what they're going to do —or who they're going to kill. This is not a 'fun' zombie flick, this is a story about human desperation in the face of an unspeakable threat.
In fact, I'd argue that the times the film is least effective is when it falls into the trap of using those tropes within the genre that have become cliche. I won't spoil them here, but there are a handful of scenes that you'll have seen time and time again. I understand that certain things are expected in a zombie film but when they pop up in The Other Side they feel a little like they've been included out of obligation. This is a movie that works best when beating its own path.
Also, while I was full of praise for the main actors, some of the supporting cast are decidedly patchy. This is only to be expected in a movie with a cast this size yet with the budgetary constraints The Other Side has. It's all too apparent that some of these actors are very inexperienced, however credit must go to everybody's enthusiasm.
Finally, I felt tonally it had a couple of uneven moments. The scenes with the megalomaniacal Mayor (played by a super-amped Christopher Murphy) were tremendous fun but felt quite over-the-top and out-of-place when compared with the more low-key feel of the rest of the film. Also, there were some nice moments of humour later on (especially with the excellent school security guard played by the charmingly fun Will Guffey), but as much as it pains me to say this, I wish they'd been omitted. This is a film that really should unfold as a pretty massive downer and I'd have preferred things to remain grave throughout. Of course, that's just my opinion.

THE VERDICT: Well, if you zombie fans are looking for a fix, you could do a hell of a lot worse than The Other Side. It's not a movie for splatter fans, but instead it tells an intelligent and emotional story with some well-rounded (and extremely well-played) characters and legitimately menacing undead antagonists. Smart, scary and surprising — this is definitely worth your time.
Be sure to check out the movie's  Facebook page for news on whether it's playing on a big screen near you (and be sure to Like it while you're there). Alternatively, you can buy the film right here.

If you haven’t already, do please check out and like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to! Alternatively, follow me on twitter: The House@HickeysHorrors

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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