• Otherworld, The



    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: August 29th, 2017.
    Director: Richard Stanley
    Cast: Richard Stanley, Scarlett Amaris, Uranie
    Year: 2013
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    The Movie:

    Directed in 2013 by Richard Stanley, who co-wrote with fellow ‘explorer’ Scarlett Amaris, The Otherworld explores a remote (and incredibly scenic) area of Southern France tucked away in the Pyrenees Mountains referred to as ‘The Zone.’ In the opening minutes of the movie Stanley explains that this area is one of great significance for those with an interest in religion, the occult and the paranormal due to its history involving Mary Magdalene and elements of sacred geometry. From there he looks straight into the camera and tells a story about how he and Amaris visited a French castle named Montsegur that resides in the area where the two of them witnessed the arrival of a female apparition that seemed to have come out of the wall. Stanley claims he dropped to his knees and wept – he’s also insistent that it wasn’t a ghost. He doesn’t believe in ghosts, he tells us – or at least he’s never seen one.

    From there, the movie expands its focus a bit, detailing the historical significance of Montsegur, the part that it played in the Roman Catholic Church’s elimination of the Cathars and this also ties in to the energies put out by other buildings and landmarks in the area such as Rennes-le-Château, a small mountaintop town that is home to The Church Of Saint Mary Magdalene. As Stanley does what he can to explain the history and paranormal significance of all of this – it gets quite heady and complicated – we meet fellow travelers of varying degrees of eccentricity.

    A man who brought property in the area after visiting with his wife many times tells us of how Mary Magdalene’s image has appeared in a tree trunk before then going on to show off some admittedly very bizarre ‘orb’ photos taken in the area. A woman explains, while he son looks on, her connection to the area and how that was enhanced after being told who she was in a previous life. And then there’s Uranie. A rail thin ‘outlaw’ with stringy, greasy hair he lives in poverty on the property he owns in the Pyrenees. He spends his time tacking up weird objects - toys, scraps of paper, broken dolls, photographs – to trees and rocks in the area. He tells us of how he broke a mirror to keep a devil from escaping through it. He talks of the Gate To Hell that exists not too far from his home. He sports a Cradle Of Filth t-shirt and apparently has pretty good taste in vintage pornography (check out the Alpha France/Brigitte Lahie DVD in the background of one scene). He also tells us that the government has forced him to be counselled and medicated and that he’s had on again/off again disputes with them over his land. Uranie may be eccentric, likely even batshit insane, but he is no idiot. Standing shortly with purple and silver makeup all over his face and with his fingernails painted bright pink, he also claims to be a Freemason of the 33rd degree and an expert in sacred geometry. He demonstrates his skills by using a simple map and compass wherein he’s able to outline how the various landmarks covered in the film all fall into their specific place. Oh, and if that weren’t enough, there are also U.F.O.’s aplenty.

    As the movie draws to a close, Stanley recounts another experience from a return trip to Montsegur even more unsettling than his first – but we don’t want to spoil that here.

    Featuring cinematography by Karim Hussein and an original score by Simon Boswell, The Otherworld is as impressive for its technical merits as it is for its bizarre content. Making use of some striking aerial shots as well as more traditional methods of photography, this is a beautiful looking film that almost serves as much as a travelogue as it does an examination of the supernatural. Stanley, who goes ‘fuller Herzog’ this time around serving as both the documentarian director and the films host, uses his naturally enigmatic warlockian screen presence to ensure that his on screen and narrative contributions are both compelling and eerie, while the rest of the interviewees (one of whom won’t show his face, so we mostly just see his belly or his crotch!) serve to round the piece out nicely.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Otherworld arrives on a 25GB Blu-ray disc from Severin Films framed at 1.78.1 and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The picture quality here is impressive. Shot on high end digital video, there’s a lot of fine detail here to take in and appreciate while color reproduction is excellent. We get nice black levels and good skin tones as well. There are no noticeable compression artifacts to discuss and as this was shot digitally, there are obviously no issues with any print damage or grain issues.

    16-bit DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo tracks are provided for the film, mixing English and French language, with optional English subtitles provided. The 5.1 track is really strong, mixing mostly music and occasional ambient noise into the surround channels to interesting effect while keeping the dialogue up front. There are a few moments in the film where some low frequencies will hit your subwoofer and when that happens, there’s some serious (and unexpected!) rumble. There are a few typos in the subtitles here and there but nothing too serious.

    The main extra on the discs is a making-of featurette that runs just over thirty-three minutes in length. There’s a lot of ‘fly on the wall’ behind the scenes footage here showing Stanley directing (and smoking) behind the camera, discussion with his crew about framing certain shots, setting up interviews with the various people that appear in the movie including an interesting extended part with a woman in a cave, and some great footage showing how the aerial shots were captured. There’s also footage of Stanley and others engaging in various rituals to prepare for their work at specific locations, some eerie shots showing how various scenes shot at night were captured and then, of course, some footage some that utterly bizarre finale – there’s even an impromptu musical number here.

    Outside of that the Blu-ray also contains some deleted scenes (The Angel Sanctuary, Moon Face, Black Hole, Uranie And The Animals, Scarlett’s L.A. Story, Montsegur Ghost Stories, The Old And The New Gods Will Return) and a theatrical trailer for the feature along with menus and chapter selection.

    It’s also worth pointing out that the first 2500 copies of the Blu-ray will include a bonus DVD featuring three more of Richard Stanley’s documentaries with new introductions and commentary tracks from the director. The commentary tracks are often times as interesting as the documentaries themselves. Stanley is a great storyteller with a seemingly vast knowledge of esoteric history and he puts that to good use here, explaining how and why he chose the subjects he did and what was involved in making these shorter films. The introductions are fairly substantial as well, running ten to fourteen minutes each.

    The Secret Glory is Richard Stanley's 2001 documentary that details SS Officer Otto Rahn's bizarre quest to find the Holy Grail (it was while working on this project that Stanley started to also research the area of France covered in The Otherworld). With a ninety minute running time, this feature length documentary proves to be a fascinating look into a part of the Second World War that isn't really touched on much in the history books or the standard History Channel style documentaries. It begins with Stanley's narration explaining how Lucifer was cast out of Heaven and then it covers the origins of the Holy Grail. We get some history of the artifact that explains its significance and from there we learn about how the Nazi's came to be interested in finding the grail, specifically how Otto Rahn obsessed over it.

    Otto's daughter is interviewed quite extensively here and she explains how her grandfather was a very religious man and how much of that was passed on to her father. A few other interviewees explain Rahn's growing obsession with the artifact and how it all ties into the Nazi philosophy of the time.

    This is a fascinating documentary and anyone with a remote interest in either the history of the time or in the supernatural should really enjoy the way that Stanley ties all of this together. It's very well researched and quite detailed in its explanations and it thankfully treats the subject matter completely seriously. In addition it also contains some really interesting archival footage and still photographs that further serve to round out the film.

    Up next is 1990's Voice Of The Moon which is an excellent half hour documentary on Afghanistan and the troubles that were hammering that country during the Russian occupation of the time. We get a rather intimate view of the people of the area and their day to day activities, how they press on and do their thing despite the looming military presence. Contrasting this rather mellow normal, everyday footage of the villagers are shots of rocket launchers firing and military men running around the area in tanks and it makes for quite a comparison. Given the direction that world events have taken since this movie was made, it's interesting to see how long things have been like this in the country and how the people have seemed to adapt to a life of political disarray long before the country became a bed of political activity and a focal point for domestic news agencies.

    In addition to the footage of the people there's also some fantastic cinematography that gives us an idea of just how remote and how desolate massive parts of this country really are. Long stretches of desert, and rocky mountainous terrain make the land quite rough and the camera captures all of this quite effectively.

    The final documentary in this set is the fifty-two minute The White Darkness from 2002 which explores the Haitian Voodoo rituals that are still practiced in that country to this day. Stanley interviews a lot of the locals and has them explain the significance of some of their rituals and we're treated to some great footage of the locals doing their thing. We come to learn of the significance of drums in Voodoo rituals, as well as dancing and certain bathing practices come into play.

    It's interesting to see how certain western influences have come into play here, as we see a jazz band play during a funeral, but how distinct the local culture is and how alien it seems at times. Burial practices are discussed as are local funeral rites, and how certain conflicts exist with the influx of Christianity in the country. Some of the Voodoo practices we see here are quite frightening in that sometimes the practitioners actually seem possessed, but the camera captures it all without passing judgment, it simply lets us watch and make up our own mind.

    The Final Word:

    The Otherworld is compelling, bizarre… almost psychedelic at times but as out there as it gets, it’s a pretty fascinating watch. Like a lot of Stanley’s documentary work the movie mixes strange elements of world history with the supernatural, but there’s also a very human element to this that makes it more approachable than it might sound. Severin’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds excellent and contains some great supplements as well. Recommended to open minded viewers with a taste for the bizarre!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





























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