The Other Side is a feature-length horror-thiller directed by Chris Niespodzianski and Ray Mongelli III based on a short film of the same name. The production boasts over a hundred extras, a twenty-five-plus member crew, and a respectable budget. The crew, the musicians, and most of the actors are from the Pittsburgh area.
The first act presents itself as a family drama: father-daughter strife, a runaway mom, a steamy love affair, and ruffians battling addiction. It plays straight first, until we learn of the mayor’s nefarious pesticide dealings and, oh, the ZOMBIES RAVAGING THE WOODS!
The film manages its several plotlines well, well… For the most part. Dad needs to get daughter to school and track down wife. Policeman needs to find missing people. The mayor needs to get some putts on the green (we’ll refer to him as “Mulligan Matt”), and the ruffians… We’re not sure what they’re up to. The narrative plays out mostly linear with a few interspersed flashbacks.
The audience finds out more information as the story rolls along— except that the characters talk out every plot detail. Each scene is stuffed with dialogue presented as an over-the-shoulder cutting to a profile shot. They talk. And then yell. Fast. Loud. Talking. Every scene escalates quickly, there’s little dynamic in the story. Rather than increasing tension, it grindlocks the story to a crawl. The slow, stagnant pacing does NOT win the race this time. The constant dialogue prevents us from getting attached to the characters. We rarely get to “see” them doing anything. Most scenes lack distinct arcs: something happens, something else happens, something happens in the profile cut, and someone continues explaining their thoughts.
At best, the Other Side is an unconventional zombie film. The zombies aren’t the focus, we don’t catch a glimpse of them until midway through. The monsters tie the story together: we find out why the wife goes missing, why everyone gathers at the school, and make for a surprising twist. The credit sequence completes some loose plot ends in quick, striking style. The gore, especially the mangled corpses, will surely turn stomachs. The dialogue was audible, the score was appropriate. Everything necessary was in focus. The color grading was solid. The shots were properly exposed. The final jib shots (the field and basketball court) caught our eyes with their grand, sweeping motion and utter desolation.
Other than the glorious jibbing, most shots were poorly composed. Characters faces are half-out of frame, backs obscure large parts of the foreground, everything is too tight in frame. Take two steps back and most shots would improve drastically. Several over-the-shoulder shots broke the eyesight line. It doesn’t feel properly storyboarded. Most of the film suffers from prominent rolling shutter and jittery camera, makes it hard to watch. Simple filters can fix this. The initial zombie reveal looked like it was shot at a higher framerate, but played back incorrectly.
The acting… How do I make myself cry? The janitor’s two lines fit the burn-out caricature perfect, taking our best-of-show award. The bat-wielding security guard was pretty cool, too. The award for worst actor goes to… it’s a tie! We couldn’t decide.
Perhaps we’re being too harsh. Some of the actors deliver memorable caricatures (Mulligan Matt, we’re looking at you). Most of the subpar acting could’ve been alleviated with less dialogue, less gestures, and a massive dose of seeing the characters rather than hearing them. Put one of them alone in a room. Watch how they behave.
The Other Side feels like it would be at home on a doorside dvd rental rack. It’s certainly not a terrible film, and the solid production value is a cut above many other similar movies. It’s properly exposed, sounds good, and the story is interesting, though not well-executed. It seems like the director took on too many roles in the production: director, editor, assistant DP. Multitasking may work on five-man short, but features need a constant guiding vision. The Other Side feels like a rough cut. Let it sit for a few weeks, go back and tighten it up. Blue Velvet had over an hour cut out, you know?
You can order a dvd of the film or a copy of the soundtrack from http://teamorchard.com/.