Director: Robert Mulligan
Screenplay: Tom Tryon (based on his novel)
Starring: Uta Hagen, Diana Muldaur, Chris Udvarnoky, Martin Udvarnoky
Producer: Tom Tryon, Robert Mulligan
Running Time: 108 min
*CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS*
We cineastes live in a wonderful age, where previously lost gems and hidden treasures are unearthed and afforded beautiful restorations and fancy Blu-ray releases and finally made available again to the wider public. No films should ever be “lost”, as all films will resonate with a group of fans, no matter how small.
“The Other” (1972) is a low-key psychological drama that follows a pair of young brothers – Niles and Holland (twins, in fact) living in rural Connecticut, and the increasingly alarming goings on at their homestead since their father dies in a tragic accident. Their Mother is now a recluse and Great Aunt (?) Ada seems to have an over-familair relationship with the twins that may involve some sort of telepathic powers?
The films seems to be marketed as some sort of “horror” but the reality is pretty far removed from this, playing out more like a dreary but mildly sad family drama.
The film opens with the twins playing in the woods, filmed on location but bathed in such sickly, false lighting that it has an air of unreality. The action moves to the family home, buzzing with a hyperkinetic energy as all supporting characters are introduced: Each barking their lines too fast and crashing around the set, an uneasy frantic energy cloaking it all. So far so interesting. Sadly, the film quickly runs out of juice. Sure, the ungainly child actor spends the rest of the films running around (in waaaay too small shorts) and blurting out or yelling his lines in quick-fire succession – but the energy is lost. The bulk of the film is a tired and dated family drama, as Niles spends too much of the run time talking with the over-acting and histrionic Ada – even a few scenes where she encourages him to dip his toes into some sort of astral projection are dull. All the while, the film lumbers towards a dramatic twist that is brutally obvious from the first few minutes. The finale cranks up the pace a notch involving a rather silly baby-kidnapping and a gruesome denouement, but it’s too little, too late.
One of the main problems with this film is with it’s tone: Who is this film for? It’s supposedly a horror film, but it looks and feels like an afternoon TV movie – but a TV movie that deals with unhappy and distressing themes (grief, trauma, child psychosis). Too boring and downbeat for family-viewing, but too tame for genre-fans?
This leads to very mixed feelings: Happy to live in a world where unpopular and hitherto “lost” genre films get lovingly repackaged (and this is a nice release, picture quality is great) and rereleased to hopefully find new fans, but why this one now? “Spider Labyrinth” (1988) never even came out on DVD, but this gets a Blu-ray!?