Movie Review: ‘Portal Runner’

There is a lot to unpack in the movie Portal Runner, but it is a better movie if you just enjoy the ride. On the surface, it is a fun sci-fi/thriller with a touch of horror and late-90s nostalgia. Just do not dig too deep or the premise (of a creature chasing a teen through parallel worlds that are accessible through mirrors) will not have answers to your questions.

Set during the last week of 1999 at the height of the Y2K concern (simpler times), starting on Christmas Eve, the movie opens on a dark house with gloomy narration by Nolan (Sloane Morgan Siegel; Dwight in Shining Armor, Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street) discussing his “close enough” house and the need for “more sharp things” and “fewer mirrors”. He claims “this time” would be different, which had me thinking time travel might be involved (I hadn’t read, or remembered reading, the synopsis or any other reviews – spoiler, I was wrong). Inside the house, still dark and spooky with the TV inexplicably turning on and off (the word “inexplicably” can be used a lot when discussing this movie), a mirror starts to glow green and out jumps Nolan, who immediately gets to work preparing traps for the horror that’s following. Meanwhile, in a brighter version of the same house, Nolan’s mom and a sister he has never met arrive home from… somewhere… and his uncle is sitting at a nearby table working on… something.

Turns out, Nolan has been moving between parallel dimensions, being chased by a seemingly unstoppable creature. Soon, however, he finds himself stuck in the dimension with the sister he’s never known, Mae (Elise Eberle; Shameless, Salem, The Astronaut Farmer) because her mood somehow controls the portals in and out of her dimension. Nolan figures this out and enlists her to help fight the evil that will not stop chasing him. It is kinda weird that she doesn’t seem concerned about her dimension’s Nolan, who is never seen, once she learns that this Nolan is from another dimension, but that’s part of that “don’t think too much” problem that the movie has.

The film is relatively short, coming in at roughly 67 minutes without the credits. I love that it gets right to the action and more or less expects the audience to keep up and figure out what is happening. There is a bit of a pause later on for back story and brief exposition, but it still doesn’t really explain why or how certain things happen, they just do.

Another oddity about this movie, given that I am a Star Trek fan, is the totally random appearance of Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager). He’s in a Sham Wow parody commercial that is seen randomly a couple times during the movie, including in the first moment (when the TV inexplicably turned on) and during the credits.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. The special effects, cinematography, and acting are all fairly decent for a low-budget sci-fi/thriller. The premise is intriguing enough to carry the film. Sure, the story could’ve used a bit more development, but we could’ve just as easily ended up with a bloated runtime that doesn’t really add much.

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