The Other Side (2014)
Directed by: Raymond Mongelli III, Chris Niespodzianski
Written by: Chris Niespodzianski
Starring: Chad Conley, Danielle Lozeau, Christine Starkey, Chuck Hendershot, Robert Liscio
Running time: 103 minutes
You wake up in the middle of the woods, covered in blood, head ringing and the man with the world’s creepiest moustache is telling you to run. Is this a night out in Manchester? No, it’s the opening scene from Mongelli and Niespodzianski’s new film, ‘The Other Side’.
The film is a little bit different, consisting of three (arguably four) entwined plots, but the attention is focused very specifically on Chad Conley as Chris, a man who wakes up one morning to find his wife missing, his daughter gone and about thirty missed calls from a very irate sister-in-law. Although the daughter is quickly found courtesy of the local sheriff, the wife remains elusive. Eh, that’s okay, she’s done it before. She hasn’t taken her anti-psych meds? I’m sure it’ll be fine.
Then cut to Greg, the poacher-turned-gamekeeper parole officer who’s looking after a biker gang. Like every movie PO, Greg was a criminal until a personal tragedy made him turn his life around, and his parolees respect him for that. A little cliché perhaps, but okay. And the final plot is the local sheriff who, after realising that lots of people have gone missing overnight, meets to the mayor to plead for reinforcements. We learn two things from this one; the first is that the mayor is a grade-A douchnozzle, and the second is that he’s been encouraging the use of a non-government-approved fertilizer. Uh-oh.
These stories are all peppered with the characters from the opening as they try and escape the woods and the ‘things’ chasing them. But these scenes aren’t really that important. All they’re really doing is introducing the characters and setting the scene. For what, you ask? Zombie apocalypse!!
At first, all the public know is that a lot of people have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Greg and Chris (along with the annoying sister and daughter) team up to try and find Chris’s wife who, unbeknownst to them, is actually the lady in the woods with creepy ‘tache, trying to get away from something. Just like most zombie movies, the film then focuses on bringing as many characters together as possible (while still trying to maintain a realistic escaped-to-eaten ratio).
After the main characters are either together or dead, the movie falls into the three big pitfalls of its genre;
1: The Swarming Horde- We all know what this is. Day of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, just about every zombie movie has that scene toward the end when everyone’s trapped in a building and the Zombies want in. Although ‘The Other Side’ wasn’t the worst effort in the world, it’s been done so many times that it’s hard to be original.
2: The Self-Sacrifice -When one character has been mortally wounded/infected/has nothing left to live for, it’s only considered polite for them to give themselves up to the horde (see above) to give everyone else the vague chance of getting away.
3: The Re-Animated Loved One – Let’s be honest, we all love having our heartstrings tugged a little, but there are only so many times that we can watch someone cry as they shoot their child, wife or mother in the face before we flip over to Jeremy Kyle.
Now, these sound like harsh criticisms but they really aren’t. The only reason they stick out so obviously is because the rest of the film is completely unlike any zombie movie I’ve seen before, relying almost exclusively on character development than blood and guts. All of these overdone zombie bits just seem out of place. In regard to the technical aspects of the film, you can tell that the production crew knew what they were doing when they put it together. The quality of the shots and the editing is far and away better than the standard set by modern indie horror films, with very little noticeable shaking on the steadycams and overall strong production values.
The acting, however, is massively uneven. While most of the key players, and a lot of the secondary parts, give convincing performances, some of the acting is so egregiously bad that it could skew your perspective of the entire film. The megalomaniacal mayor might be an interesting character, but he’s hammed up so much that he’d be more at home in a B-movie than a smart modern zombie film.
And the plot? I would love to say that it’s amazing, but I can’t. It is unique, though. The use of multiple entwining stories is interesting but (aside from one largely forgettable attack) it delays the action for so long that we have to wait almost an hour for anything to really happen. I’m sure if anyone involved in the film reads this, they’ll shake their heads and say ‘but that’s the point’ and that might be true, but when people want to watch a zombie film, they want to watch zombies. They don’t really want an hour of character development.
Overall this is a strong, well-made effort that is let down by some of the actors and is about thirty minutes longer than it needed to be. While I enjoyed it, I can’t help but feel that it’s a little bit too clever for its own good. I do, however, think that it will inspire up-and-coming directors to experiment with their own plots which could lead to some interesting results..