Horror-On-Demand: Portals (2019) - Reviewed

Anthology horror is a subgenre unto itself which will invariably replicate until the end of cinematic time.  Often an inexpensive way to commission typically lower-budgeted filmmakers to whip up enough horror shorts to comprise a feature film, they’re either connected by a singular narrator, narrative link book-ending the film, a defining visual style or in the case of Portals a kindred theme.  Released independently by Screen Media, the film brings together anthology horror veterans Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sanchez, Timo Tjahjanto as well as newcomer Liam O’Donnell for a unique piece of inexplicable apocalyptic as well as psychedelic horror.

The premise connecting the wild, gory and inspired shorts is a simple but no less effective one: rectangular, monolithic shaped portals are appearing throughout the world out of nowhere and begin wreaking havoc on the human beings within its reach.  Where do they lead?  Why are they here?  No one knows for sure except that people are either being zombified as law and order begins to break down.  Unlike, say, The ABCs of Death or the V/H/S films which give free reign to the filmmakers to use whatever approach they wanted, Portals is grounded in a singular kindred visual style yet you can recognize the energies of each filmmaker’s segment.

Timo Tjahjanto, for instance, can be spotted from a mile away.  His palpably manic and violent energy channeled in the short films L is for Libido and Safe Haven are immediately recognizable.  In his mid-movie segment, Sarah, set in Indonesia involving an underground garage overrun by zombified acolytes, the film reaches a fever pitch intensity and level of extreme violence that is unmistakably from the perverse and wicked mind of Tjahjanto.  Though still relatively unknown in the horror community, the vibe one gets watching any of his utterly over-the-top horror shorts is that of a homicidal Tasmanian devil.

The other segments book-ending it, Call Center by the Blair Witch Project filmmakers Hale and Sanchez, are no less engaging but never quite reach the intensity of Tjahjanto’s segment.  Newcomer O’Donnell’s The Other Side, broken up into short segments connecting the other filmmakers’ segments, manages to get some cringe-worthy gore in that would make the likes of Fulci blush while trying to shed some vaguely defined answers on what’s causing all of this mayhem. 

Though sharing three cinematographers and different editors per segment, Portals is among the few anthology horror films by multiple directors that plays like an entire uninterrupted feature by one director ala Creepshow.  While seasoned horror fans will recognize which director did the segment(s), Portals takes the unique approach of maintaining a consistent audiovisual style so the shift between segments isn’t as noticeable as the aforementioned V/H/S films or The ABCs of Death.  As a slice of low budget filmmaking quietly released on-demand and on 4K streaming platforms, Portals is one of the better and more sizable offerings of the anthological horror genre you’re likely to stumble upon on accident. 

--Andrew Kotwicki