BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE OTHER (1972) / CERT:12 / DIRECTOR ROBERT MULLIGAN / SCREENPLAY: TOM TRYON / STARRING: UTA HAGEN, DIANA MULDAUR, CHRIS UDVARNOKY, MARTIN UDVARNOKY / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 23RD
To describe Robert (To Kill a Mockingbird) Mulligan’s The Other, based on the 1971 novel by actor-turned-writer Tom Tryon, as a horror movie is to do it an enormous disservice. It is quite clearly, as recognised and acknowledged by countless movie enthusiasts across the decades, actually a taut psychological thriller which predates by a couple of years what we might loosely identify as the ‘horror movie boom’ of the mid-1970s, characterised by classics such as The Exorcist and The Omen. In fact, in many ways it’s The Omen which possibly bears the closest resemblance to The Other in that it features a creepy demonic kid who does terrible things to suspicious adults who might not have his best interests at heart. But The Other is much less adrenalised and high-concept than Richard Donner’s enduring genre classic (and not, we rush to point out, the ropey and pointless 2006 remake) and certainly not concerned with graphic or exploitative displays of gore and horror.
We’re in Kentucky in 1935 and twins Niles and Holland Perry are enjoying lazy, hazy summer days in the countryside around the family’s farming homestead. Their mother is a recluse, grieving over the recent death of her husband and Grandma Ada encourages Niles to develop a psychic ability that allows him to project himself out of his own body and into the body of other creatures. Holland is a cheeky, naughty scamp and Niles finds himself trailing along in his brother’s mischievous wake. But as the summer wanders on, some of Holland’s pranks become a little more sinister and have tragic consequences. But there may be more – or possibly even less – to Holland’s behaviour than meets the eye and the greatest tragedy is just around the corner when the truth about Niles and Holland finally becomes apparent.
The Other isn’t a film likely to appeal to fans of modern quick-fix horror movies. It’s a languid, slow burn affair which takes its time in setting up its characters and its scenario and establishing the slightly-oppressive air of a situation which isn’t quite right and people who aren’t necessarily quite as they appear to be. Eagle-eyed viewers familiar with genre tropes that have been done to death (quite literally) since The Other first appeared are likely to spot the twist well before it’s revealed. Fortunately, there’s more to the story than what initially appears to be this core plot point and in many ways the last reel takes the movie into darker and occasionally more disturbing territory than ever, resolving in a bleak and nihilistic ending which is like to linger longer in the memory than the rest of the film.
But in the end perhaps that’s what makes The Other so unfussily triumphant. It has a subtlety and restraint lost to later entries in what we might call the ‘creepy kid’ movie sub-genre and its bright cinematography, emphasising a long-gone idyllic lifestyle of endless summer days, blazing sunshine and boyish exuberance and imagination, cleverly subverts its story of a carefree life of fun and games beneath which beats a dark and twisted heart.
Extras: Trailer, souvenir booklet