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31 Days of Halloween

Portals Review: Disjointed exercise in “could’ve been”

‘Portals’ never grabs the audience’s attention.

Welcome to today’s installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be talking to creators working in horror and share and recommend various pieces of underappreciated scary media-books, comics, movies, and television-to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.


As popular as horror anthologies are, there is one large inherent problem with the format. As good as the entire movie may be, there is going to be one or two stories that are better than the rest. This can result in the lesser sections being forgotten. Portals is a sci fi horror anthology that does away with this problem. Despite a neat premise, nothing really grabs the audience’s attention.

Portals takes place in the very near future. Scientists have managed to create the world’s first man made black hole. Almost immediately, a blackout spans the entire globe. The anthology tells a stories about how characters from around the world are affected by the event.

The best anthologies have a great wraparound. It is not necessary for this overarching story to take center stage, but it is the catalyst for what is happening. Portals starts off with an interesting one. It is the standard man playing God scenario. Scientists have created something they should not have and now the world has to deal with the consequences. Part of the intrigue becomes finding out whether it is extraterrestrial, supernatural, or something undiscovered.

What should have been one of its greatest strengths becomes Portal’s biggest problem. With four directors, there is going to be some noticeable differences. Camera work, and pacing will all differ to varying degrees, for example. This is to be expected and even lends to some of the charm found in anthologies.

Continuity should not be an issue, however. These may be individual stories, but they are tied together by a singular event. Each director had their own take on the portals. The objects is a door, mirror, or wall depending on the story; it can read minds or summon zombies. The point may have been to add to the mystery of what is going on. It comes off as confusing making the whole movie seem slipshod.

Portals is also structured differently than traditional anthologies. There are basically two wraparounds, though director Liam O’Donnell’s contribution plays more like random commercials. This adds to the disjointed feel of the movie. The opening and closing documentaries are mildly interesting but ultimately seem to serve no purpose.

Portals does have directors with strong resumes, including the creative minds behind The Blair Witch Project. Gregg Hale and Eduardo Sanchez have some of the stronger segments. The two part story centers on a 911 call center in Washington D.C. immediately after the chaos has begun. It is a good idea that would have been better with a stronger conclusion.

Director Timo Tjahjanto is impacted most by the poor story. “Sarah” is frenetic fun. The segment also takes place in Jakarta which highlights the global impact of what is happening. The direction is done without cuts adding to chaotic action. It is also a literal case of too little while Portals sparse storytelling quickly makes it too late.

The good thing about horror anthologies is there is extra wiggle room. A weak segment can be covered by one or two better ones. Regrettably, Portals is unable to paper over its weaknesses. Mundane segments relegate this sci fi horror to being barely adequate.

Is it good?
A sci fi horror anthology sounds like a great idea. 'Portals' even has a great premise to entice the audience. Unfortunately, it never goes beyond that.
"Sarah" is a fun segment that ends too soon
Good opening
Confusing structure takes the audience out of it
Lacks continuity
6
Average
Comments

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