Indie science fiction movies tend to take a backseat to their bigger, flashier studio counterparts. The whiz bang of large-scale speculative fiction tends to blind movie goers to the existence of lo-fi sci fi like “Doors,” a VOD portmanteau built around the single idea that alien doors suddenly appear worldwide.
Directed by Jeff Desom, Saman Kesh, Dugan O’Neal with the aid of creative director Saman Kesh, “Doors” unfolds in three stories, and like a character in the movie asks, “You guys ready to get weird?”
Let’s get weird:
First, we meet a group of potty-mouthed high school students attending class when the world changes. Their teacher disappears, leaving them to fend for themselves as they hear strange sounds and voices coming from a large door outside their classroom. As they interact with the portal, their deepest secrets are revealed.
Then, in another part of the world a group of volunteers, called “knockers,” enter one of the extraterrestrial portals located in a beach house. On the other side of door there’s a deadly alternative reality that looks like ours, just tilted 180 degrees.
Oig! So strange!
Lastly you have the sci fi staple, the loner scientist with a great beard (TV On The Radio’s Kyp Malone), who figures out something no one else has. He discovers a way to communicate with the sentient portals but can he defend himself and others when the portal gets angry?
Binding the three segments together is Marin Midnight (David Hemphill), a podcaster in the vein of Alex Jones who speaks to his bewildered audience through guests like Dr. Price (Darius Levanté), a talking head who bloviates, “Mankind must figure what the doors are, are they gods? A malevolent force bent on destruction? Both? a sign of humanities reset? Is it a test, a way for the doors to figure out where humanity should go from here?”
One might imagine that a portal that can transport people anywhere would have folks ricocheting around the universe but “Doors” keeps the action earthbound. While an interplanetary trip or two might have expanded the film’s sci fi elements, the routine settings of everyday life, a classroom, a house, the woods, creates the otherworldly sense that the ordinary has now become sinister. As an exercise in unsettling speculative fiction the beach house sequence works best. The portal’s mirror world echoes real life, but with just enough differences and danger to be interesting.
The other stories, while nicely shot, don’t have the same impact. The occasional Ed Wood worthy bit of dialogue, like, “You are all in violation of ordinance 256, unlawful engagement with a door,” also blunts the effectiveness of the film’s message.
“Doors” is ambitious, lo-fi sci fi that works as an entry way to new ideas but never quite gets over the threshold.