DIRECTED BY: Robert Mulligan
FEATURING: Chris and Martin Udvarnoky, Uta Haen, John Ritter
PLOT: Adapted from his novel by Tom Tryon, two enigmatic twins seem to be connected to a community’s run of misfortune. Could it have anything to do with a cursed family crest and a dead man’s severed finger?
WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: An unusual story, The Other is unsettling and bizarre, yet it is conventionally produced and is shot by Mulligan (Summer of ’42) like a mainstream family film. The frank, matter of fact presentation of disturbing imagery is as creepy as a hostess placing a decaying skull in the punchbowl at a débutante’s ball.
COMMENTS: Some horror cinema doesn’t have to rely on the supernatural to be horrifying. The Other is technically a psychological crime thriller, but it projects the distinct feel of a horror movie with occult elements. Set in the 1930’s, The Other is a grim shocker about two cute, apparently wholesome twin boys who would seem to lead an idyllic existence on a picturesque family farm. There’s just one problem—everyone around them begins to have gruesome accidents.
The boys are drawn into a convoluted good-versus-evil struggle that churns within themselves, and they struggle with each other to both exercise and exorcise it. As this conflict manifests itself, the bizarre circumstances surrounding the misfortunes of family and neighbors begin to weave an increasingly twisted and captivating mystery.
The story includes many odd and unsettling elements, such as the fact that the twins’ mother is inexplicably a terrified psychological invalid. Their Russian nanny seems to be able to teach the boys how to fly via astral projection. There is a very odd, cursed family crest ring complete with the severed finger of the corpse from which it was stolen. People and things connected to the twins seem to end up broken, on fire, paralyzed or dead.
The boys covet and revere the ring and finger. They carry it with them constantly in their treasure box, and this morbid memento is somehow the key to all of the strange tragedy that unfolds. The uncertainty of who is who and what is what creates a surreal tone. The Other is a thoughtfully presented nightmare of indulgence, madness and grotesque murder. The production is enhanced by Robert Surtees’ striking and graceful cinematography which produces memorable visual impressions. Jerry Goldsmith’s low-key, creepy score compliments the film well.
Horror and occult fans should take particular delight in viewing The Other for the following reasons: it has an original story that has not been perpetually copied since it was filmed. This work was shot in 1972 when there were fewer creative constraints on writer-director collaboration. The Other is well constructed, but neither formulaic, nor forced to be “accessible” to the public. There are none of the standard cliches. It withstands the test of time and is not dated. Set during the Great Depression, it looks like it could have been produced yesterday. The subject matter, however, is refreshingly unconventional. Those looking for something fresh and unlike anything they have seen before should be especially pleased—that is, if they can locate a copy.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“…The Other is a dark, eerie minor masterpiece that is filled with lasting images: a finger wrapped up in a handkerchief, a boy leaping into a pile of hay with a pitchfork in it, the corpse of a baby drowned in a wine barrel… Some horror films leave such a chilling impression that they become impossible to forget.” -Clarke Fountain, All Movie Guide