PORTAL TO HELL!!! (2015)
Director: Vivieno Caldinelli
Stars: Roddy Piper, Laura Robinson, Matt Watts, Jordan Todosey, Millie Davis, Donald Tripe, Clyde Whitham
Runtime – 11 Minutes
UK Release TBC
Jack (Former WWE star Roddy Piper) is an ageing superintendent in a crumbling old apartment block. Life for him consists of a series of menial repair jobs, heralded by an irritating phonecall from one of the building’s tenants. They’re an odd bunch, and all Jack wants is to give them a wide berth as he enjoys a little peace and quiet in which to read his book, even if there are a few tasks still on his to-do list.
However, one day a power cut sends him down into the basement where he discovers odd residents Mr King (Clyde Whitham) and Mr Mathieson (Donald Tripe) clad in just their underwear and robes, daubing arcane symbols on their flesh and walls and chanting ‘R’lyeh’.
It seems Jack’s reading has been disturbed by a pair of disciples of a certain tentacle-faced Old God… and now he needs to deal with a Lovecraftian menace along with blocked toilets, blown bulbs and faulty generators.
Can the mop-wielding hero forge a happy ending in the face of a timeless adversary?
If the simple premise of ‘They Live’-style ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper vs Cthulhu grabs your attention, you already know why you need to see this film.
If it doesn’t, what the Hell is wrong with you?
By far the biggest asset of this successfully crowd-funded short is one Roddy Piper. A charismatic lead, he channels They Live’s John Nada, albeit with a few more miles on the clock, to give us a pissed off hero who REALLY doesn’t want to be saving the world right now. Piper’s performance is flawless, at times loveably earnest, at others witheringly sardonic. His delivery is always impeccable, whether it be world-weary complaints or Eighties action-movie badass one-liners. Even his physical acting is marvellous, with the barely restrained fury in the ‘look of death’ he shoots towards his telephone tormentor one of my favourite things in the short.
Janitor Jack is one of the finest heroes I’ve seen all year, and as final roles go, it’s a fitting send-off for one of the most underrated B-Movie action heroes of all time. RIP Roddy.
Elsewhere the rest of the cast also delivers, with Tripe and Whitham’s oddball cultists among the standouts. The characters deliver plenty of laughs and make the most of their limited screentime. I also loved the work of Laura Robinson as Jack’s would-be love interest Jeanie, and Matt Watts as wimpy resident Mark who ends up embroiled in Jack’s struggle. Alongside him the feisty Jordan Todosey impresses as a babysitter who is not prepared to take any of crap, while young Millie Davis delivers a great dose of creepy as her charge.
The cast is helped in bringing their characters to life by the wonderful writing. The story, by the talented Watts, is one of those fun ideas that I can’t believe nobody has thought of before, combining the interdimensional, sanity-draining horrors of HP Lovecraft (one of the greatest genre writers of all time) with the grimy, real-world banality of slacker-style comedies. However, the script’s biggest strength is that it has plenty of great characterisation for the cast to sink their teeth into. With cracking dialogue and plenty of humour, Portal to Hell!!! is a fun film.
Director Vivieno Caldinelli uses quick cuts, kinetic camerawork and brilliant pacing to keep us entertained throughout the whole runtime. This is a film that is every bit as polished as features with far higher budgets and shows that Caldinelli is a director to watch.
One area in which the professionalism and fun combine is in the fantastic practical effects work by Astron 6’s Steven Kostanski. We get plenty of bloody, oozy carnage, plus some suitably fleshy tentacles from the diabolical entities that our heroes must battle. There’s even some polished visual effects from the team that bring the titular Portal to Hell, the otherworldly landscape beyond and its residents to life. It’s all suitably OTT and splattery — just one more crowd-pleasing element of a film that I’m sure will be a massive success on the festival circuit.