I can officially say that I’m over zombie movies. The sheer number that fall into our inbox each day offering ‘an exciting, new perspective’ is enough to leave any horror lover needing a holiday from the undead.
But when the independent film The Other Side arrived offering more than just blood and brains, I downed my defences and welcomed it in. Sometimes you just have to dip your toe in the piranha pond just to see how infested it is.
A full length feature, The Other Side is an ambitious project for writer/director combo Raymond Mongelli III and Chris Niespodzianski. It’s a big production with a sizeable cast and a plot with more complexity that your usual zombie movie. In fact, for a fair amount of time you may question whether it is a zombie movie at all.
Chris wakes to find that Ashley, his recently-discharged-from-a-hospital wife is missing from their home. And before he barely has a chance to put on some clothes, the local police chief is at his door with his daughter, who coincidentally also decided to leave the house unannounced during the night.
While Chris struggles to work out why everyone is walking out on him as he sleeps, his wife’s sister arrives to shout at him a bit. Meanwhile Ashley stumbles around a nearby forest with a guy that she just randomly met trying to figure out who she is, where she is and why there are strange creatures chasing after them.
As Chris, his sister-in-law and his parole officer buddy Greg search for Ashley, zombies descend on a forest dwelling biker gang. And as the police stand around struggling to figure out what is going on, we wonder if Ashley will be reunited with her loved ones before the dead walkers have had them all for breakfast.
The thing that immediately strikes you with The Other Side is the production quality. For a completely independent horror it aims high, delivering a surprising amount of polished shots and scenes, putting it almost on a par with those made-for-TV SyFy films.
The cast is of mixed ability but on the whole they hold their own. Chad Conley delivers a consistent performance as desperate, searching, protective dad Chris and Danielle Lozeau plays the screaming, shouting and crying sister-in-law with gusto.
The ideas too aren’t bad and it’s obvious that The Other Side is a genuine attempt at making a film that is different. And it has more to offer than the thousands of other low budget flicks that it shares filmic occupancy with.
But it does sadly fall foul of the usual indie horror problems.
Though the main characters are performed by a competent cast, some of the acting from those in the outer roles is pretty bad, making an otherwise serious attempt at a gritty and powerful film seem a strange mixture of sincerity and bad comedy – which I hope wasn’t the actual intention.
In offering a film that’s ‘different’ The Other Side becomes far too complicated and the large amount of time spent developing characters detracts from the real purpose of the film. This leaves it slow and lacking in action, the opposite of what you would expect from a film about a race against time, searching for a loved one during a zombie apocalypse.
This lack of pace and excess of dialogue even goes as far as to spoil the final twist, which is a shame.
Cinematically speaking, although the general quality of the footage is great, some of the shots are unnecessarily wobbly and some of the shooting angles are odd. And if I must nit pick, the edits should have been snappier to help give the whole film a bit more momentum. These elements frustratingly make The Other Side just fall short of being truly impressive.
Oh and the shouty, heavy rock soundtrack. Why do all indie horrors have that?!
The Other Side is a prince among low budget independent horror movies and its definitely deserving of a distribution deal (I’ve seen plenty of lesser films get one).
But it’s still some way short of great and lacks excitement due to an unnecessarily complicated web of a storyline.