14th Nov2019

‘Portal’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Ryan Merriman, Jamie Tisdale, Myk Watford, Heather Langenkamp, Reinaldo Zavarce, Najarra Townsend, Lindsay Seim, Courtney Nightingale, Yan Birch | Written by Peter Dukes, Dean Alioto | Directed by Dean Alioto


What’s that, yet ANOTHER horror film featuring ghost hunters? Surely that subject has been done to death by now… In fact it’s so played out that the idea of ghost hunters in horror has led to more horror comedies than actual horror films. However Portal sticks firmly in fear with it’s tale of Steven, an ambitious ghost hunter (Ryan Merriman), who is winning a losing battle against the falling ratings for his show Ghostseekers and his competitors Ghost Trackers – who seemingly having more money, and more clout, to produce a much more successful ghost-hunting show.

Desperate for a hit season finale Steven steals information on a haunted house, the Dalvas House, from his competitors. However the whole thing turns out to be a bust… until that is Steven and his production team come across a buried box that contains a scroll with a strange incantation. And in typical stupid horror movie style (did no one learn from Evil Dead?) they read the passage aloud. Only the incantation is actual a risky ritual that opens a portal to “the other side”.

Can you guess what happens next? Well..? Yes, you guessed it right, the sh*t hits the fan and Portal descends into the aforementioned Evil Dead levels of demonic madness. Oh, and Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street) turns up as the surviving daughter of the Dalvas family!

I’ll be honest, if it wasn’t for the presence of both Ryan Merriman (Veritas: The Quest, Final Destination 3) and Heather Langenkamp I would’ve probably given Portal a wide berth. After all, Grave Encounters pretty much perfected the “ghost-hunters find real ghosts” trope and since then it’s pretty much been downhill, save for a number of comedic takes on the now-cliched story, Hoarders and Deadtectives in particular, which have been a LOT more fun than their serious counterparts.

However I’m glad I took a chance on Portal because what hides under a familiar plot and generic title is actually a REALLY great take on a well-worn story. Once we get to the spooky goings-on, post-incantation, co-writer and director Dean Alioto piles on the creep factor without a ton of cheap jump scares. Instead he uses a sense of dread and foreboding to craft a film that feels truly scary; and it keeps building and building into a huge crescendo – yet one that is less centred on special effects and the spectacle of a huge monster. Instead it turns the focus back onto the cast of Ghostseekers and the relationship between Steven and his producer Cris (Jamie Tisdale), giving the film a real emotional resonance.

The surprisingly effective Portal is available now on Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon Video, VUDU, Google Play, Microsoft Movies & TV, and FandangoNow from Vertical Entertainment.


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