This is definitely one of the most restrained horror films I've seen in a while. The tone is deliberately mawkish, with events unfolding in the "aw, shucks" simple-life mythland of the immediate post-Depression (I know it wasn't really like that, so don't start). It's h0nestly more like a Disney TV-movie than something seriously intended to unnerve. Although there are a few exceptions...
It's probably a pretty bad sign that I called one of the film's major twists before SEVEN MINUTES had elapsed. The remainder of the running time had a few choice elements (the invalid mom's omnipresent makeup, Uta Hagen's performance as the boy's grandmother, the bored gum-snapping of the magician's assistant), but a lot of it was just tedious and drab and a chore to endure. It looks okay and the performances are fine, but there's no compelling reason for someone well-versed in horror films to sit through this.
I mean, low-impact horror can be very effective (LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH and LEMORA, please believe), but THE OTHER is just so unmenacing! On the killer-kid movie scale, it's easily trumped by recent fare like THE CHILDREN, THE ORPHAN, and the godly HOME MOVIE. It maybe ties CHILDREN OF THE CORN, but that is nothing to put on a resumé. It is difficult to make children an object of fear. Objects of annoyance, certainly, but fear is tougher. THE OTHER doesn't really pull it off, although it does have one or two great scenes, including the shocking image near the film's end. The score by Jerry Goldsmith, who only scores killer-kid movies BY LAW, is as bland as everything else. For thrills and chills, seek anOTHER option.
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