Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Other (1972)

In the horror genre, there are films that each have a goal in mind: Some scare you, some shock you. Some gross you out and some make you cringe in your seat. Then, there are those rare few that make you think long after the ending credits have rolled. This is one of them.

The Other is a 70's film that I read a little about back in the late 90's. The plot didn't seem to interest me much then for some reason and I skipped it. Now, this was before I was a more mature horror viewer, when all I wanted to see was how creative slashings and murders could be without ever taking tone, setting and atmosphere into consideration. Many years late, I've learned to appreciate little things in a horror film - or any film for that matter. The combinations of set pieces, locale, music, symbolism all combined to make a film what it is. I didn't get to actually see this film until just this year, which was fantastic because I was able to take this in as a whole and not pass it off as just another suspense film. I unexpectedly found this DVD in the used horror bin at Rasputin's and was immediately furious because the core of the plot - and its famous twist - can all be found on the back of the DVD's cover. Shame on you, 20th Century Fox! But I digress.

The story revolves around a small town in Connecticut and twin brothers, Niles and Holland (played by Chris and Marin Udvarnoky, respectively) who hang around each other and get into trouble. Niles, the good boy has to take the rap for the bad things his brother Holland does and nobody understands why bad things are happening. Niles seeks advice and comfort of his friend Ada (Uta Hagen) whom has taught him to play "the game", a euphemism for psychic telekinesis, in which Niles can become an object, for example, a bird, and become it for a brief moment and experience everything it feels and does. Luckily only they know about "the game".

The basis of the story revolves around a ring that was given to Holland when their beloved father passed away after an accident on their farm. Only the eldest child is allowed to have it, but Holland passes it on to his brother who keeps it in a small tobacco tin and guards it with his life, with another item wrapped in cloth. But, why does Niles have the ring when Holland is the eldest child? And why does Holland keep getting Niles into trouble?

The story is presented well and the acting is by far some of the best I've ever seen. Maybe that's thanks to legendary acting coach, Uta Hagen, who possible lent out her knowledge and skills because everyone just oozes superb acting, even the always wonderful and beautiful John Ritter shines in his minimal role as Rider. The film becomes more than just a suspense film, it becomes a study of a child who has refused to let go of the one thing that meant most to him in the world: his brother. There have been studies conducted across the ages of the mystical bond that unite twins and this film explores that bond and gets the viewer to understand how Niles and Holland are still connected, even though Holland is dead. Niles can still see him. Niles can still hear him. And Niles is the only one that can stop the reign of accidents that have been happening across the farm. But can he betray his brother? Can he use his gift of "the game" to finally put Holland to rest before the worst happens?

The strong point of the film is when the other item Niles has been keeping in his tobacco tin is finally revealed. He keeps a decomposed finger, which the ring he bears was attached to, safely put away in hiding. But where did this finger come from and who does it belong to? How did Niles get the ring from Holland if he died before he was able to pass it on to his brother? That answer will make your jaw drop if you're ever able to see this film. Then, Rider's wife finally has the baby she's been carrying. One night, the baby disappears while sleeping in Niles' room and the entire family, along with the town, goes on a manhunt to find the missing child. Niles has a feeling who's behind it and calls out his brother to return the child. The first time you hear Niles whisper, "Holland, where is the baby?" will give you the eeriest chill to ever run down your spine. You know who has the baby. And you know that nothing good can come out of this. It's even more heartbreaking when an innocent man is taken off to jail whom is suspected of killing the baby by drowning it in a pickle barrel. But who really killed the poor child?

The climax of the film will have you thinking for days. The who, the what, and the why will be constantly running through your mind and when you come to the conclusion of just what happened, you'll close your eyes and smile and wonder why films like this aren't made anymore. Sometimes, it isn't about how much blood can be shed on screen, but what kind of real scares you can give your viewers with the least amount of dialogue and just enough atmosphere to make your skin crawl. While the VHS of this film is long out of print, get the DVD while you can. This is a remarkable piece of film making that shouldn't be skipped or overlooked. And I'd never heard of Uta Hagen until her name was referenced in a Will & Grace episode, which is sad, because she truly made her mark with this film. If you can get your hands on this one, do so.

Here is the trailer so you can see what I'm talking about:

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