Sarah Wayne Callies and husband Jeremy Sisto move their family unit to India. Not long after, their son dies in an accident, leaving Callies in particular completely grief-stricken. Struggling to move on six years later, the couple’s Indian housekeeper suggests to Callies (who blames herself for her son’s death) going to a temple and performing a certain ritual that will allow her to say a proper goodbye to her son, and finally move on from this sad chapter. She is told, however, under no circumstances whatsoever is she allowed to open the temple door (the door between the world of the living and that of the dead), no matter how much her ‘son’ pleas with her. Yeah, I’m sure you can work out what Callies does next and it has sinister, ghostly consequences for her and the rest of her family.
Supernatural horror films founded on the grief of losing a child are nothing new, but it’s a perfectly workable idea. Losing a child must be a truly horrific, gut-wrenching experience, and one that even those who haven’t been through it can at least certainly sympathise with. So in that respect, it’s kind of clever to use that as the basis for a film. This blend of “Poltergeist”, “Pet Sematary” and “The Impossible” from director Johannes Roberts (who was behind the much lesser, if competently directed genre flick “Storage 24”) and his co-writer Ernest Riera (his first feature length screenwriting endeavour) is pretty good. I’ll admit the inclusion of Eastern mysticism does have the potential to seem racially stereotyped, but for all I know it’s accurate for the culture. I’m hardly an expert on Eastern mythology/spirituality. Some might find the usage of the grief aspect to be a touch exploitive, but that didn’t bother me so much. I think Roberts and Riera get away with both, and if anything I was more underwhelmed by some fairly ancient plotting. It still works, it’s just nothing you haven’t seen before, plot-wise.
I can’t stand Sarah Wayne Callies as an actress, I’ve always found her a cold fish, a mixture of Debra Winger and Laura Linney, with half the talent of the latter. Here though, she gives by far her best performance to date, and being front and centre, it’s a jolly good thing. It’s crucial that you understand and sympathise with this woman, so it’s quite surprising to me that someone I’m normally predisposed to loathing managed to draw me in here. This woman has been almost paralysed by her grief, and that relatability makes you understand when Callies does the very thing she was told not to bloody well do. It’s a foolish act, but an understandable one for someone operating entirely on unrestrained emotional impulse. I would’ve liked more scenes with the underrated and charismatic Jeremy Sisto, but given where this film needs to go and who it’s really centred on, it probably had to be this way. He’s solid as always, though. Although this is pretty much a drama with horror elements, it doesn’t fail on the latter front. The ghostly creatures are a bit J-horror for my liking, but pretty creepy nonetheless. It’s an extremely good-looking film with wonderful locales and striking imagery throughout. I’m not entirely sure the finale quite comes off, but I do rather like the ending itself. It’s kind of poetic.
Far more drama than horror, this is nonetheless a solid, underrated ghost-and-grief flick with solid performances, and stunning imagery. It works well enough on an emotional level that you don’t much mind that it’s pretty clichéd stuff. I was also glad to see a horror film about grown-ups, instead of boozy teens or something. Well worth a look, so long as you don’t expect the most daring or original concept in years.