THE OTHER SIDE
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Aren't you getting pretty tired of zombie cannibals? I know I am. There is a treasure trove of possibilities out there but it always comes back to zombies popping up and wanting to eat people. Why? What's the point? Just as mysterious as why people are turning into zombies is why the hell they'd want to eat living people. Romero tried to answer this in DAY OF THE DEAD, but kindly Dr. Logan's theories never explained why zombies wanted to eat only the living people: That and Logan was also crackers. That and once the whole "eating only the living" was established, Logan fed his zombie dead human and "Bub" ate it, so...
So just as it took someone like Romero to pull the zombie mythos out of the Voodoo supernatural, so it took another independent low-budget director to come along and re-invent the mythos again - as everyone else remains stuck on Romero.
THE OTHER SIDE was shot on Super 16mm film on a budget of $15,000! Great Cthulhu! THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was cheap and it was made for $60k in 1999 dollars - and it was only that cheap because it was mostly shot on video! Sam Raimi made THE EVIL DEAD for $350,000 back in 1979 dollars and that was considered pocket change (over $1 million by 2008 per rate of inflation)! George A. Romero made NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in 1967 for $114,000 and THAT was considered cheap! So cheap George had to resort to black and white! Now Writer/ Director / Editor / Producer Gregg Bishop comes down the pike, from his home state of Georgia, and bops up Rodriguez style with a movie he made with a borrowed camera - shot entirely on color film no less - and a bunch of dedicated nuts! That's the love of Horror Thriller for ya!
So out in the middle of nowhere woods, there is a table with a white cloth over it, and a candle on top, burned nearly to its base. Next to the table is a truck. A glum guy sits in the truck, watching the candle burn out. A white van comes along and rams the truck hard, rolling the it over and into the river where glum guy, now significantly more excited, drowns.
At this point, and in lesser hands, you'd expect a tiresome "One Year Later" to appear on the screen. Instead you get a re-birth - of sorts - of the glum guy in another place. It's a strange place kinda like a storm drain. Glum - now dead - guy is not alone. His life flashes before his bleedin' eyes and light upon what happened earlier that day. His name is Samuel North (Nathan Mobley: DON'T WORRY IT'S ONLY YOUR IMAGINATION) He's about to graduate and get his degree from an ivy league university. As a surprise for his fiance, he drove 15 hours to return to the love of his very young life, Hanna Thompson (Jaimie Alexander: REST STOP). Hannah waited the long years and long distance in their podunk town for Samuel to go through college and get his degree. Everyone said that the relationship wouldn't work, but they've made it and are now more in love, for their strength in their sacrifice, than ever. Hannah can't be with Samuel though, until she gets off of work. They agree to meet at their special place by the river.
Hannah's had problems of her own in their small nameless town outside of Atlanta: Like the greasy attentions of her boss, Isaac (Chris Burns: CHOSEN, HELL'S END), who manhandles all the women in the restaurant, but especially Hannah.
So that's why Samuel was waiting alone in his truck at night. But why didn't Hannah show up?
Before Samuel can think this through, others are among him and push him toward a tunnel of bright light. As he escapes, so do they and Samuel wakes up confused in a hospital where the staff is asking him all kinds of questions and he only has fragments of memory.
Meanwhile in the hospital's morgue, a bunch of dead bodies with toe tags suddenly sit up straight. Wherever Samuel was, a number of somebodies followed him back.
In the county cemetery, three bodies re-animate, grab the hearse outside, and go tearing off.
The hunt has begun.
Gregg Bishop doesn't go Old School zombie so much as Ancient School zombie as he returns the undead mythos - somewhat - back to its supernatural roots. All of the characters have names out of the Old Testament except for two Revenants who become the Ying and Yang guides to Samuel, Mally (Cory Rouse) and Oz (Poncho Hodges). Rouse and Hodges work so well together that they could become a team in possible sequels. Samuel discovers that Hannah is missing, no one knows where she is, and since Samuel has no witnesses for where he was all night, he is the prime suspect in her disappearance. To make matters worse, Samuel and all the others who escaped "The Pit" with him are being hunted down by Reapers: Re-Animated beings like Samuel except that they've been commissioned by the Keepers of the Pit to return all of the escapees. Apparently this is something that happens with some regularity as Mally is on his second escape and Oz is on his fifth. The Reapers dress in black, carry guns, and track down their prey thanks to a mark that all of them have on their bodies: An odd tattoo which marks them as one of the re-animated. What's more, unlike the escapees, the Reapers can switch bodies, so killing them is not impossible but its damn difficult. These zombies don't rot, though. Instead they are living humans in every way except for the fact that they are damned souls in someone else's body.
THE OTHER SIDE is very biblical in tone yet avoids being preachy. The gunplay and action sequences are truly amazing and so is the lavish gore (even more so considering what this movie cost!). The fight scenes are choreographed far better than most studio offerings - no shaky, blurry camera dance to substitute for action. The stunts can be downright stunning! And in addition to the gory Horror and the Thrilling action, there is also a twisty mystery that Samuel intends to solve: Who the hell killed him and what happened to Hannah?
Mally and Oz have their own questions. Why would a seemingly nice guy like Samuel wind up in the Pit in the first place? I mean, Mally was an adulterer - sure! Oz was a thief, so that's a given. What in the hell did Samuel do? They are so curious that they haul off and ask him directly. Sam won't tell and that makes Oz and Mally uneasy. Especially since Oz is trying to find redemption in this stolen life so he won't be sent back to the Pit a sixth time. Mally just wants to get far away for as long as he can from wherever the Reapers are... and get laid.
I enjoyed the many comic moments that Bishop adds to the story without turning it into a comedy. The Reapers are just the right mix of threat and cornball and the action never stops. There are just enough sight gags to keep the story from getting too heavy or Samuel and Hannah's tragic romance from becoming too cheesy. It also gives a more human appeal to the recently escaped dead souls who want nothing more from their afterlife than to live their lives free from worry about the Reapers. Fat chance that! The Reapers are MATRIX style TERMINATOR types! They won't stop - ever!
Kristopher Carter's music lends just the right atmosphere most of the time, though it gets sappy at all of the wrong moments, rendering what should be touching love scenes into corn syrup coma. That happens a few times too much, but it didn't overwhelm the movie.
So if you're looking for a fun low budget fright flick for your Halloween to-watch list, you gotta see THE OTHER SIDE. I'm getting this one for myself!
Four Shriek Girls.
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