Friday, October 25, 2019

The Overlook Theatre Reviews: Portals

A sci-fi anthology from four iconic horror directors, tied together by a single event-the appearance of cosmic portals around the world. While many flee from them, the real terror sets in when others are drawn into these mysterious voids.

3 of 8 viewers "Liked" "Portals" (2019, USA)
Creature reviews have been minimally altered in an attempt to maintain their voice:

Greyranger - "It took multiple filmmakers to take 2001: A Space Odyssey into the dullest and muddled anthology horror movie in recent memory. It is both too vague and too explicit, dulling the enigma at its heart and giving us no reason to care about any of it. The movie assumes we'll be as awed by the monoliths in this movie as the ones in 2001, which is pompous and lazy. Besides, they look like fucking plasma screens. It's not smart enough to deliver on the hard science, not imaginative enough to deliver on the enigma." - 1.5 Stars

Huntress - "Portals is a good looking movie but it left me wanting more. The segments felt like they were taken out of something bigger, or like they were intended to be episodes of a series. And towards the end, the mythology behind the portals got too muddled and chaotic for me to follow. There were elements I really liked; interesting settings, a mad scientist and some good body horror, but those well crafted horror moments were interspliced with a lot of confusion." - 2.5 Stars

The Impostor - "Horror anthologies are a favorite of mine. Portals is a film I've heard nothing about and if I saw the cover I'd probably skip it, but hearing it was an anthology piqued my interest. Overall, this sci-fi horror anthology isn't one I'd recommend. "The Call Center" story started off interesting and fell flat. "Sarah" was a great short that I'd want to see more of and definitely raised a point on the star status. With a wrap around, around another wrap around, things got confusing and I thought there were too many endings. This is a Portal I would go through to avoid seeing it again but I'll most likely forget this film in a few days." - 2 Stars

Lord Battle - "An army of Monoliths have appeared all over Earth! In Portals we are given different perspectives from 4 locations all of the planet and time-space! 😱 I love watching all walks of anthologies. What I find most important when delivering a good anthology, is a solid wrap around. Portals gives us two often confusing wrap arounds... Quantity over quality is really the theme of this film as the Monolith army quickly becomes uninteresting kinda like the way a slasher or ghost can become boring when they have to much screen time. I mean these damn Monoliths are everywhere! The worst part is that people react in the lamest ways to this phenomenon. There are some really cool things hidden within the... "Portals" (😉), like some surprisingly effective gore, a couple interesting ideas, and a solid short that takes place within a parking garage. I also love when an anthology has strong connective tissue like a theme or just shorts written for the feature. Would I recommend Portals? Nope, but I do think Portals would play well as a random watch on Amazon Prime." - 3 Stars

Listener Sam - "I'm giving this a 2 primarily because it has two wrap-arounds. That was wild. It's not normal for any film to roll credits before it's over, and it rarely works. Gaspar Noe can pull it off. Portals can't. But it fails amusingly. So Portals is a 3-4 part anthology where portals show up and people react to them. Sometimes they go crazy, sometimes they become zombies. Other Stuff happens... The highlight was "Sarah" which was essentially a zombie short, but was well shot and had what may have been the film's only scare. I guess it's also ambitious, which was at least respectable. The CGI is fair. There's a creepy eye. A head explodes. There's just nothing that stands out. It puts the poor in Portals." - 2 Stars

Wondering Panda - "A movie that bends time, space, and travel. Sounds like a fun sci-fi movie, right? Well it's okay. I have no problems with this film, it's shot okay, the sound and lighting are okay. A little over-dubbing post edit. This movie is mediocre at best, it doesn't really excel at anything. Plus it's kinda dense where there's a lot going on, but not really. Portals makes me wish it was real so I can hop in one and disintegrate away to a better reality." - 3 Stars

Math Mage - "I recall The Triangle and how the fear came from the unknown (Where are we going? Is this a good thing?) and now I realize that it would have been less scary if the dinosaur talked. I kept feeling like they were due for a "Beyond Good and Evil" speech but they never did. I should have felt relieved (I hate these) but no, they're just evil. We're even spared the mystery of whether they are portals at all. I mean for all we know, crazy call center guy could just have been crazy and the "doors" were just disintegrating people. But no, they're evil doors that send people to another dimension and turn people into zombies for no reason. And the No Reason wouldn't bother me normally but the doors won't shut up!" - 2.5 Stars

Theatre Ghost - Positives: Nice creative group project, interesting concepts. Favorite of 3 is “Call Center”
         Negative: Overall poor combination of Us and Bird Box. I feel “The Other Side” only accomplished gore fx. Lack of continuity (ear plugs missing and reappearing, multiple lines of reasoning behind “The Door”, etc.) took me out of the story. Good character development with the father and daughter.
         “Call Center” was my favorite but a simple take on current social issues of mental health, workplace/gun violence, ineffective public safety and media. Nothing new learned or any new perspective. Also, if the blonde lady can’t find her daughter, why does she keep showing up on the phone?
          “Sarah” was a zombie rip off that couldn’t decide if it was from radiation, visual effects, or crying dead babies. This had the worst continuity. I understand their choice in disorienting camera but feel they did not use its full potential. Good casting, poor script.
           “Liverpool” was a scientific documentary attempting to connect the three storylines but became a half made forth story. It did nothing to further the plot, only to meet full feature time requirements.
I liked the effects used for the doors/portals. I feel like the documentary or/and other side would be better as independent full length features." - 3 Stars

The Overlook Theatre Final Rating*
(Below is for after you've seen the film)

Portals didn't really work for the Overlook's fickle creatures. Everyone seemed to have questions when the credits rolled. Luckily, one of the film's directors, Liam O'Donnell, was gracious enough to address a couple of them. 

Why the double wrap-around?

We originally just had a couple of opening title card of the black hole forming but once we finished the film it just felt like we needed a little more setup and a little more scope. I had gotten to know a really talented British science fiction director Haz Dulull over the years and thought he'd be perfect to bring in for that. So we started talking about what that could be and it just evolved into a slightly bigger sequence with a fun mid credit scene to tease what could come next.

Was this ever conceived as a found footage movie?

Not that I know of. When I came aboard Call Center and Sarah had already been shot. So that was never really a discussion.

In making an anthology with a central connecting theme, how much time did you spend laying out ground-rules. Did you go into the segments with certain things that the portals can and can't do, or were you just given the idea and told to go ahead?

When I came aboard I spent a lot of time talking with creator/producer Chris White about the Portals, about the rules, the origins, how much to explain, how little. But it was all very flexible and malleable to what worked best for each individual story. I definitely had the benefit of seeing the other segments cut together so I knew what I was matching to and building around which was a huge help and inspiration. I loved that each one was sort of genre mash in its own right. Call Center was a sci-fi hostage situation. Sarah was a sci-fi zombie apocalypse. The Other Side took its cues from Misery at first that sort of devolves into a John Carpenter inspired Prince of Darkness fever dream.

Did you find any differences in working on an anthology film as opposed to a full feature?

 There's a lot of big differences of course, in scale and time - it was incredibly refreshing to make something and have it come out a few months later as opposed to something like the Skyline films that take around 2 years all in. I think the biggest difference from a writing stand point is that audiences are much more up for nasty endings in short stories/segments. We actually originally had a more happy ending for The Other Side but it felt a little too nice! We needed to see something more sinister at the end which really helped bring things full circle.

How much was cut out of the segment you worked on?

Not much, almost everything we shot made it in. We had a very aggressive shooting schedule so we really tried to trim as much fat as possible before filming. The interrogation scene where Adam faces off with his reflection was a little longer though with a few of the more mysterious questions asked and contemplated but it felt like we were maybe giving a little too much away and it slowed things down too much so we trimmed some there.

You can rent Portals on iTunes and Amazon Prime today to experience it for yourself 


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