The Portal
R0 - America - Ruthless Picturse / MVD Visual
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (10th May 2017).
The Film

Since the bewildering successes of the V/H/S and The ABCs of Death franchises, the multi-director horror anthology film has threatened to supplant "found footage" as the latest indie horror subgenre trend. The Portal, unfortunately, joins such thrown-together contemporaries as The Invoking 3: Paranormal Dimensions and The Horror Network among the bottom tier (not that the better examples so far are that much better). Compiled by producer Jesse Baget who also slung together international horror shorts for The Invoking 2 and the aforementioned part three (including shorts by four directors featured here), as well as All Hallows' Eve 2 ("sequel" to the anthology helmed solely by effects artist Damien Leone), The Portal features a Ring-esque wraparound by Zach Ramelan about the disappearance of a young woman who became convinced that a strange man was stalking her after she watched a video tape that features some creep visuals and chilling audio of the terrified girl as bookends and in between the episodes with little in the way of a payoff. In the pre-credits story Alexia by visual effects artist Andrés Borghi (whose name is misspelled in the credits), a young man (Sergio Berón) and his new girlfriend (Paula Carruega) are in for a "surprise" right out of Ringu or Ju-on: The Grudge when he decides to "unfriend" the memorialized profile of his missing girlfriend (Pilar Boyle). Marginally better is The Face from Svend Ploug Johansen in which a lone jogger (Sjit Happens' Stephania Potalivo) encounters the true face of the Grim Reaper (or does she?) In Exit 7A from William Peters, a motorist (Ben Watts) is driven to uncertainty and panic when a pretty hitchhiker (Angela Borrello) tells him that she is on her way to kill someone. More developed than the other stories but not necessarily better, the story does provide some diversion by making its sting-in-the-tale not what one was expecting. Class of Death – an animated effort from Pavel Soukup (who "contributed" two live action shorts to The Invoking 3) – details through the eyes of a new student how a rumored curse associated with the deaths of three students from a single class in three years has lead to fear, paranoia, bullying, betting, suicide, and possibly murder. Although clearly the best of the shorts on display here, it is severely compromised by an English overdub of the original narration by Czech actor Matous Ruml (presumably derived from the English subtitle translation cited in the closing credits but not included in the short itself). In The Experiment from Calvin Main (also an alumnus of The Invoking 3), Captain Dominic Palma (Day of the Mummy's Anthony Fanelli), possibly suffering from PTSD, is planning to kill himself in eight hours as the result of a vaguely-referenced experiment. A one-man-show for Fanelli, who also scripted, the short is more of a performance piece than horror or even a meditation on death or fear of it. In the poorly-acted Deletefrom The Invoking 3 alumnus Ruben Rodriguez, selfie-obsessed Karen (Meagan Leigh) discovers that she and her roommate (Alissa Beth Sweeney) are not alone in their own apartment during a power outage. The short manages a single chilling image but then takes the viewer in the same direction fellow director Soukup did already in his own short Selfies. Director Main is back in The Sneak (scripted by Fanelli and Main and previously exhibited on the series Chapers of Horror along with three of the Invoking 3 shorts) which adopts the picture-in-picture to depict a single-take Facetime conversation between Hollywood hopefuls Bobby ('s Reggie Couz) and Becky (Pitch Perfect's Shelley Regner) as the former discovers the that his new girlfriend is not who (or what) he thinks she is. In Rodriguez's It Requires Sacrifice, Sarah (Crystal Quin) is in love with her roommate (Kyle Kankonde) but her willingness to do anything to possess her takes on a violent and possibly demonic twist. More of a sketch than a short, It offers little in the way of surprise or chills. from actress Nicky Hawthorne delves beneath the placid surface of suburbia as two children live in fear of their picture-perfect mother. Hell Week from Patrick Rea (Nailbiter) is the longest of the shorts, revealing what happens when fraternity pledge Luke (Jerod Meagher) crosses the sisters of Delta Pie in order to achieve "the trifecta" for which he is lauded by his brothers while absent from their paddling ceremony that is intercut with his own special hazing. Mercifully short at seventy-four minutes and favoring quantity over quality, The Portal is a painless diversion that not only may engender interest in what future feature work some of these filmmakers might produce but also may encourage horror fans to try their own hand at short filmmaking since it does not really seem to take much (in terms of scripting as the most of the productions are actually well-mounted) to produce something for exhibition that might wind up on another of these anthologies.
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Video

Shot in a various aspect ratios with a number of high definition cameras, the shorts of The Portal are all given a serviceable, single-layer encoding.
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Audio

The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio mix features shorts in English, Spanish, and Danish with subtitles burnt-in for the latter two. The mixes vary with some going for a fuller experience and directional scares while others are more center-channeled.
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Extras

There are no extras.

Overall

Mercifully short at seventy-four minutes and favoring quantity over quality, The Portal is a painless diversion that not only may engender interest in what future feature work some of these filmmakers might produce but also may encourage horror fans to try their own hand at short filmmaking since it does not really seem to take much (in terms of scripting as the most of the productions are actually well-mounted) to produce something for exhibition that might wind up on another of these anthologies.
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