“Niles and Holland are as close as twin brothers can be. Appearances can be deceiving… and deadly.”
If you were to turn the volume down and watch 1972’s THE OTHER silently, you’d likely have no clue you were watching a horror film. The movie looks like an episode of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. Bright colors and deep, rich earth tones paint the screen. A great deal of on-screen attention is given to accentuating the beauty of the weather, sunlight, and landscapes. Each frame of film is filled with nostalgia for this simple, meager time. This movie makes you want to spend a weekend on a sweet idyllic farm. Well, except for all that murder.
Yet even if you turn up the volume back up on this Robert Mulligan horror classic, the “horror” element still does not shine through. Instead of eerie strings or pounding notes to build suspense, THE OTHER features a peaceful, classical score, often waltzes, even. These oppositions are what make the film so genius. The terror in THE OTHER comes from the fact that it is born out of genuine evil, not tricks the director uses to scare you further like shadowy lighting or a piercing score. The terror comes from pure circumstance and character, and that makes it all the more terrifying.
Based on the book by Tom Tryon, THE OTHER is set on a depression era Connecticut farm. Twins Niles and Holland seem to have a serene and bucolic lifestyle. But murder and tragedy seem to plague this family, always linking back to the two sweet twins.
The film is entirely carried by the two twin boys (played by actual twins Chris and Martin Udvarnoky). THE OTHER is their only screen performance, which is shocking considering how well they do, being simultaneously adorably-cute and monstrous. This film is also one of the early onscreen roles for John Ritter who plays the boys’ uncle.
THE OTHER had a very light and brisk theatrical release and then ended up running on several TV networks before it slowly faded away. The original author (Tom Tryon) was very displeased with the end result of the movie version and did several interviews throughout the 1970’s discussing his distaste of the film. This, of course, did not help the film’s forgetful release and reception. Though it has maintained a small cult status, THE OTHER never got much past that. But reception aside, this film is gorgeously shot and in the realm of horror movie history, THE OTHER was an early spark of what would be an entire sub-genre of evil kid movies that would emerge during the 1970s and early ’80s including THE EXORCIST, THE OMEN, THE BROOD, and THE SHINING. Don’t plan for THE OTHER to be a thrill-a-minute horror flick filled with the regimented amounts of gore and scares. This is a moody (yet cheerfully shot), slow-moving masterpiece. Think more in the vein of THE WALTONS if John-Boy went crazy and decided to start taking out the family members one by one.
How you can see THE OTHER: A fancy Blu-ray release of THE OTHER came out in the fall of 2013, but this was in highly limited supply through boutique distributor Twilight Time, so copies on Blu now range between $40-$60 each. But you can still snag a DVD copy for about $5 used on Amazon.