Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Other (1972)

The Other is a slooooooow burn. Some might say it simmers. Others might say the cook forgot to switch on the burner during parts. Let's be frank here. It gets a little tedious at times. I dozed off about forty minutes in. This has nothing to do with the lack of on screen kills or nudity. The picture just tends to meander. Yet, it does eventually manage to ignite. This thing ends in an eruption of (possible spoiler) Kentucky fried baby, extra spicy.*

The Other is the story of the Perry family. A typical family living on a farm in 1930s Connecticut. The opening of the film introduces us to eleven year old twin boys, Niles and Holland Perry. Holland gets the two involved in various forms of mischief involving rats, pitchforks, pushing mother down the stairs, spoiling magic shows for everyone, babynapping, etc. Also, Holland's dead, killed about a year before, a result of falling into a well (while about to drop a kitty down the well) . Whether or not he's a ghost, a figment of Nile's imagination, or in possession of Niles is left fairly ambiguous. Sort of. Also living on the farm are their immigrant grandmother (Uta Hagen), their shell shocked mother, an immigrant farmhand, their uncle, a young John Ritter and his wife, and a cousin (same age as Niles - also a reputed snitch).

Interestingly, the director (Robert Mulligan - To Kill a Mockingbird) never shows Niles and Holland, despite being played by real twins (Chris and Martin Udvarnovsky), in the same shot. This plays up the ambiguity as to whether or not Holland is a physical entity, a ghost, or inside Nile's head. Like I said earlier, the movie meanders, goes off on weird little tangents. Like the part where Nile's grandmother teaches him how to see the world through the eyes of a bird, predating The Beastmaster by a good ten years. The bird soars through the sky and catches a glimpse of a pitchfork left in a pile of hay that Nile's young tattle tale cousin is about to jump into. What's one more funeral for the Perry family?

About an hour into this thing, after I woke up, the grandmother takes Niles aside and is like "look you little brat, your brother's dead, died last year, fell in a well. Stop acting like he's still around, start acting like a normal fucking child, etc. Look, don't believe me" - yanks him to the cemetery - "here's his god damned grave stone" - huge reveal, stunned musical notes - "see, it says 'Holland fucking Perry'! Get over it, sheesh!" Ok, I may have paraphrased a bit there, but you get the idea. Niles seems to go along with grandma until late that very night when she comes down the stairs to find him still talking to Holland. She just sits down and shakes her head. Seriously though, it's all Grandma's fault. She's an enabler. She went along with this innocent "game" after the funeral. Should have put an end to things then, didn't expect things to go quite this far. We got one dead cousin, one dead neighbor, a snatched - possibly murdered - baby, spoiled magic tricks, one paraplegic mother, and lots more general mayhem-ic shit.

The relationship between Niles and his grandmother is actually pretty sweet. It has to be considering the state his mother's been in since the death of Holland, and, before that, her husband/their father. She doesn't leave her bed, barely eats, never speaks or engages in any type of motherly behavior. Then "Holland" pushes her down some stairs rendering her completely immobile. So yeah, grandma's got her hands full. Niles clearly has issues. Like, why is he carrying around a small case containing a ring that was supposed to have been buried with Holland? Also, what's with the wrapped up - spoiler - severed finger in the same case?

Of all the killer kid movies I've seen, I can say that this is better than something like Devil Times Five. It's no masterpiece and has difficulty sustaining itself for its full run time. Still, I gotta be honest. I sorta appreciated the meandering. The picture doesn't rely on cheap scares, quick editing, blood, gore, tits, etc. We got a general creepiness that slowly evolves into a terrific, and horrifying, conclusion. The finale is almost enhanced by the meandering, as long as you're awake for it.

*note: baby not fried

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