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The Other is a classic horror film but one that has been little seen in the UK.
A satellite stint in the 1990s was one of the few occasions that it has been seen here.
In its day with only the murderous brats of The Bad Seed and Village Of The
Damned standing prominently before it The Other must have been more immediately
disturbing. There were more Mary Bells in the real world than there were on film. Cinema's
killer children are legion since then, the ten years following including The Godsend,
The Child, Devil Times Five, The Children Of Ravensback, The
Haunting Of Julia, Night Hair Child, Quien Puede Matar Un Nino, It's
Alive, I Don't Want To Be Born, The Brood, and Damien Thorn - the
blighters were on a bloody roll which continued to surprise. It is therefore still a
feat for one of the earliest killer kid movies to reach its conclusion in the unsettling
way that it does today. It is a highly polished film, but in its painting-by-numbers
bold colours give it the feel of a television movie while the pastoral and trite filler
music that accompanies the antics of the child in play gives it a reek of Spielberg at
a time he was making dark television movies like Something Evil. The Other
is not unlike an episode of The Waltons in which members of the extended family
are occasionally spectacularly bumped off.
Niles (Chris Udvarnoky) is eight years of age and has a twin brother, Holland (Martin Udvarnoky), who normally leads him dangerously astray. The house is chock with family and hired hands though, some of them, interestingly, vaguely introduced, as the focus falls on the boys, their mother (Diana Muldaur) and grandmother, Ada (Uta Hagen). Ada educates him on innate extraordinary talents from the old country, out-of-body experiences and an affinity with nature. When the chubby cousin rattles the twins, a missing fork is waiting for him in the haystack. A farmhand is held responsible for the 'accident'. The little coffin is only the latest accidental death in the family, the boys' father also cracking his head in the cellar having committed some petty insult on the boy, Holland. The household seem accustomed to death in an unfair 1920s' Midwest. Several more holes in the ground are on the way. The neighbour dies of fright and mother tumbles down some steps, invalided to a chair without the power of speech. Discovering the sick behaviour of her offspring she can only watch on with terrified eyes. A today-predictable twist and the story gears up for the grim finale as a newborn baby goes missing and the grandmother decides the only way to bring the horrors to an end are with an act of sacrifice by invoking the "Angel of the Brighter Day."
Tom Tryon adapted the screenplay from his own novel, and it's a tidy transfer. Better known as an actor and the star of I Married A Monster From Outer Space, he would adapt a further two of his novels for film and television, Fedora and, another mid-western nightmare, the mini-series The Dark Secret Of Harvest Home. It is gore shy, a macabre and bloodless, steadily told, tale. Towards the end there is one image that is more appalling than any open wound, a hint of the horror on the loose, a pate in a cask of ale. It is cruel and in the movie of the week settings the unrepentant finality is the more unpalatable. Anchor Bay have delivered the film in a pristine condition, the colours and image quality are great. The title music is appropriately sinister but most of the score is twee in an Oscar friendly compositional style ahead of its time. The film runs 96 minutes and extras include the trailer, a gallery of 29 images and couple of DVD-ROM features that require Adobe Acrobat Reader, the shooting script and music cues for the feature.