The balance between life and death was disturbed in the horror film “The Other Side of the Door” when an inconsolable mother, Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) disobeyed a sacred ritual when she opened the door that separates the living and the dead in a desperate move to talk to her son who died in an accident.
After Maria and Michael’s (Jeremy Sisto) eight-year-old son Oliver dies tragically in a car accident, the boy returns to the world of the living, but in an altered form. His reappearance affects everyone in the family, including his sister, Lucy (Sofia Rosinsky). “Lucy is put at risk by Oliver’s return,” says scribe Ernest Riera. “She’s the first person to get in touch with Oliver once he’s back, because she’s a child and believes in the supernatural more readily.”
“The Other Side of the Door” is a story about a family and about a woman who crosses the line from grief to madness,” says Callies. “I have never played a character that revolved so completely around loss and the inability to heal. Until that tragedy, Maria had always walked between raindrops. She’d been so fortunate, and then in the space of an hour it all changes.”
As the story unfolds, the American expat family starts to uncover a side of India many Westerners have never experienced. “India is a unique and extraordinary place, and until you’ve been there, you really don’t know what it’s like,” says producer Rory Aitken.
Director Johannes Roberts and Riera were fascinated by the Aghori, Indian natives who have a connection to the evil spirit that has returned with Oliver. To ensure authenticity in the portrayal of the Aghori, the filmmakers conducted extensive research into various Hindu rituals and mythologies.
Another spiritual figure in the film is the Myrtu, a creature that comes to take Oliver back to the underworld. “She too communes with the dead, like the Aghori, but is an amalgamation of ideas and a made-up entity,” Roberts explains. He and Riera were careful not to depict or mimic any real Hindu gods and goddesses, so they created Myrtu from several inspirations, including Greek mythology and mixed Indian myth.
Javier Botet who portrays Myrtu, a four-armed figure, sees Myrtu as “a hunter and victim, at the same time. Myrtu must control and punish humans who, like Maria, disobey the rule to never open the door. Myrtu is like a mother lioness keeping limits, with ferocity. It’s a powerful, violent, but ultimately sad character.”
The story’s Indian setting is a critical element and required many different locations and builds and the city of Mumbai was determined to best fit the filmmakers’ creative and technical needs. As the epicenter of the Bollywood industry, which produces far more movies than Hollywood, the city of Mumbai has a distinct filmmaking culture and audience. Mumbai, or Bombay, as some call it, is a modern metropolis with a multi-layered nature: architectural vestiges of its colonial past provide sharp contrasts with a congested and connected metropolis. It was important to the film’s creative team to find a balance between the real and imagined India of yesterday and today, and to represent the concentrated intensity of colors, tastes, smells and sounds through a variety of locations, both familiar and never before captured on film.
Aitken found the Indian setting to be a strong draw. “The fact that it’s set in India and has an Indian mythology and Hindu symbolism is a new kind of twist,” he remarks. “I hadn’t seen that before.”
“The Other Side of the Door” opens February 24 in cinemas nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.