Portal (2019) movie review

Portal is a film with a decent premise, but never manages to open up the door to reach its full potential.

Director/co-writer Dean Alioto and co-writer Peter Dukes explore the world of ghost hunting with a team desperate to make a mark for their web series in the crowded field.

Team leader/host Steven (Ryan Merriman, The Jurassic Games) is running low on funding and needs to find a memorable location for his season finale to ensure a second season. Along with his producer Cris (Jamie Tisdale), Steven reaches out to the ghost hunters underground (who knew?) to find the perfect haunted house with a tragic backstory ripe for a potential paranormal encounter.

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Merriman is a likable lead. He’s an actor well-suited for these low-budget films as he provides far more credibility than the typical lead in these types of movies. Tisdale is decent as well despite a somewhat shaky script that doesn’t properly develop Cris’ subplot.

One thing that stood out in a good way was the uncommon use of manners. Snarky characters tend to play better in these kind of films as they make for more satisfying victims. With this crew actually getting along and caring about each other it creates a different dynamic that surprisingly works.

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Eventually Steven gets discouraged and casually recites a message from a buried box. This doesn’t bode well for the rest of the team as they start experiencing some  very unexpected consequences of his actions. Steven and Cris get an assist from a woman (horror icon Heather Langenkamp) and her friend (Gregory Zaragoza), but they’re only able to do but so much since the evil spirits aren’t exactly doing anything that…evil or malicious.

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Paranormal thrillers are arguably one of the hardest genres to do well on a limited budget. It’s challenging to create the mood to effectively generate the tension, dread and uneasiness with lower-tier lightning or effects budget.

Some paranormal thrillers opt to go for sticking to things unseen and leaving more up to the viewers’ imaginations, but Portal tries to add in some actual antagonists via possessions, which comes off cheesier than creepy.

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Portal is low on thrills or tension and it’s never a good sign when the actors are more fearful and nervous about what’s playing out than viewers. The biggest problem is an overall lack of interest in generating scares as if there’s more interesting material to cover.

Alito does a good enough job in setting the stage, but the payoff is so underwhelming it robs the film of any level of excitement or engagement. Portal is all about the build up while at every turn it fails to deliver on that early investment.

portal movie review - jamie tisdale and ryan merriman

There’s a cute stinger scene leaving the door open for a sequel, but it’s hard to get excited about a second chapter for a film that completely failed to do more than provide a brief bump in the night.

Rating: 3 out of 10

Photo Credit: Vertical Entertainment

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