Studio: Epic Pictures
Director: Jeff Desom, Saman Kesh, Dugan O¡¯Neal
Writer: Saman Kesh, Chris White
Producer: Raphael Margules, J.D. Lifshitz, Brad Miska, Chris White, Kimberly Stuckwisch, Saman Kesh
Stars: Josh Peck, Lina Esco, Kyp Malone, Wilson Bethel
Millions of mysterious alien doors suddenly appear across Earth, causing cases of madness for anyone who interacts with them.
In 2019, a production partnership formed to release ¡°Portals¡± (review here), a sci-fi anthology framed by a premise where mysterious black portals suddenly appear all over the world without explanation. With a 30/100 Metacritic aggregate and 3/10 average user score on IMDb too, it¡¯s fair to say ¡°Portals¡± flopped. So four of that film¡¯s producers went back to the drawing board to deliver ¡°Doors,¡± a sci-fi anthology framed by a premise where *checks notes* mysterious black doors suddenly appear all over the world without explanation. Um, how does the saying go for something like this? ¡°If at first you don¡¯t succeed¡¡± No, not that one. I think it¡¯s, ¡°What¡¯s the definition of insanity?¡±
Unlike the popular opinion, I didn¡¯t find ¡°Portals¡± to be all that bad. ¡°Doors¡± on the other hand definitely is. It¡¯s such a colossally clumsy step backward from a predecessor that already wasn¡¯t well received to begin with, I¡¯ll eat one of the film¡¯s faux spacesuits if anyone dares defy logic by spending a single cent on a third one of these called ¡°Gateways¡± or whatever.
¡°Portals¡± at least had talent like ¡°The Blair Witch Project¡¯s¡± Eduardo Sanchez and innovative Indonesian filmmaker Timo Tjahjanto cooking up kookiness behind the camera. Three men who only have other video shorts to their unknown names direct ¡°Doors.¡± With a ratio of amateurism to experience that¡¯s heavier on the wrong side of that dichotomy, ¡°Doors¡± ends up looking like an underground film festival entry that¡¯s too raw to even earn pity laurels as an honorable mention.
The doors make their first appearance during ¡°Lockdown,¡± where four high school students are serving detention. This being modern day America, when their principal announces a lockdown, the classmates understandably assume there¡¯s an active shooter on campus. The alert is actually due to the doors, whose unannounced arrivals cause mass panic across the globe while the kids are trapped inside their school.
Jake is the jerk of the bunch. Rory is the requisite nerd. Liz seems to be Jake¡¯s girl, although Ash has eyes for her too. Ash is a trans teen who keeps their crush quiet. But when the door beckons Ash to enter, CW drama dominos fall, causing a conflict that throws everything out in the open.
¡°Lockdown¡¯s¡± brief brush with gender identity struggles turns trickier when the compact story, which is just this quartet conversing before having a standoff with a CG door in a hallway, shows Ash contemplating suicide as penance for their problems. As noble as the writer¡¯s intentions may be, a slim slice of a quickie B-movie isn¡¯t an appropriate venue for a cursory take on such topics. An episode of ¡°Degrassi¡± isn¡¯t much longer, yet that¡¯s the right real estate for delicately digging beneath the surface ¡°Lockdown¡± barely scratches. Cheap DTV sci-fi makes the mishandling of sensitive subjects seem tastelessly tacked-on.
I¡¯d recap the full setup of second chapter ¡°Knockers¡± except the only details anyone will remember about this otherwise forgettable segment are the laughably absurd spacesuits worn by supposed scientific researchers. They make no practical sense whatsoever. The suits are stitched like long underwear for a pirate or a cowboy, with sleeves laced like athletic shoes. They couldn¡¯t possibly protect against a light breeze, let alone variable air pressure, hazardous gasses, or whatever unknown extraterrestrial anomalies await their wearers on the other side of the doors. Completing the comical look are undersized fishbowl helmets that aren¡¯t connected in any way that would form an airtight seal.
With breath visibly fogging everyone¡¯s visors, these ¡°experts¡± are sent through a portal where they find the other side is only a slightly altered version of a regular house. One room has a few baby bottles turned upside down. Another room is full of flowers. I don¡¯t know if viewers are supposed to be unsettled, intrigued, or merely confused by bargain bin production design.
The ¡°knockers¡± only have 12 minutes to investigate before ¡°door psychosis¡± drives them crazy. Despite the time limit and critical importance of their mission, the researchers aimlessly amble with no more urgency than a grandma going antique shopping on Sunday and only bring one still camera and a couple of GoPros to document their findings.
I¡¯m sympathetic to a low-budget production¡¯s need to cut corners. But suspension of disbelief has a hard time meeting a film halfway when scientist names on protective gear are written in Sharpie.
The Sharpie returns in the final full segment ¡°Lamaj,¡± which starts with seven snoozy minutes of one man, Jamal, fiddling with outdated Radio Shack equipment and ¡°talking¡± to one of the stationary doors. In between yawns, the Sharpie shows up as scribbles over the brand name on a boom box, and on handmade labels taped to pantry products. Jamal apparently felt the need to cover corporate logos with labels that read ¡°Oatmeal¡± and ¡°Beans,¡± even though they¡¯re affixed directly above the preprinted portion of the cans that also read ¡°Oatmeal¡± and ¡°Beans.¡±
The stories are so slight and the basic concept is so underdeveloped that ¡°Doors¡± never stood a chance at success. Making middling matters worse is the chintziness cheapening up the screen everywhere an eye turns. From excessive text exposition typed in an awful font to the doors themselves, which look like they were made from metal shavings from those old toys where a magnetic stylus draws hair on a cartoon face, there¡¯s simply no way to take ¡°Doors¡± seriously.
Review Score: 30