Now on VOD, Doors is an indie sci-fi sort-of-anthology movie that blends horror with big ideas and an overall spaced-outedness into a fairly concise 81-minute package. It features three directors — with overall creative direction by Saman Kesh — and stars Josh Peck of Drake and Josh fame, so Disney dweebs, take note. Sometimes, these types of modestly budgeted sci-fi movies impress with their ambition, and sometimes their reach exceeds their grasp — now let’s find out which category Doors falls into.
: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: We hear a series of eerie 911 calls. And then, a title card: DAY 01: LOCKDOWN. A high school teacher corrals four teens in a room, and confiscates their cell phones while they take a test. Suddenly, a chorus of sirens from outside. A big WHOOOSH overhead. The teacher takes a phone call, leaves the room, never comes back. A nervous voice over the PA announces that the school is locked down. The lights flicker and pulse. The kids get their phones back, bicker, leave the room, find a strange something out there, a big, pulsing special effect that fills the whole of the hallway and speaks in title cards: HELLO ASH, it says to Ash (Kathy Khanh), COME CLOSER, COME WITH ME. And she actually considers it, to the horror and confusion of the others. Could this be one of the things in the title of the movie?
We have an answer for that: Yes, it is. It’s explained by the chattering host of a supernatural-phenomenon podcast, Martin Midnight (David Hemphill), who catches us up on the exposition. Fifteen days after DAY 01, millions of these “doors” appeared from outer space I think and started luring Earthlings into them. We see scenes of wholly empty cities across the world as the host tells us how half the population went poof, although where’s the other half? Hiding in their basements with cans of beans and rifles? Some of them are trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Volunteers known as “knockers” (don’t laugh) go through the doors to report their findings, two of whom are a couple, “Becky the Trekkie” (Lina Esco) and “Vince Prince” (Josh Peck). They only have 12 minutes to explore, because the previous knockers had 15 and experienced “permanent door psychosis.” What will they find? Only what they take with them, one assumes.
There are two more vignettes, one set on DAY 101, in which Jamal (Kyp Malone), a loner who lives in the woods with many cans of beans (I dunno if he has a rifle though) and a lot of old analog audio gear, which he uses to find a wavelength on which the neighboring door can communicate with him — in spoken English, even. The other depicts a video-chat interview between Martin Midnight and a spacecase philosopher (Darius Levante) bent on changing the show host’s perspective. What the H is going on here? Will we ever know?
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: If you’ve always wanted a movie that blendswith and on a tight budget a la , then Doors is for you.
Performance Worth Watching: Malone shows the most potential here as the guy who makes the communicative breakthrough with the doors, but his frustratingly brief segment doesn’t allow much time for character development.
Memorable Dialogue: Becky the Trekkie watches rocks get pummeled by ocean waves: “Poor rocks. How do they stand it for so long?”
Becky, after she makes a difficult decision: “I don’t wanna be a rock anymore. It’s my turn to be a wave.”
Sex and Skin: None.
Our Take: Yep — reach exceeds grasp. Classic case. The core mystery of Doors carries plenty of intrigue, but the movie’s ultimately a scattered collection of symbols, metaphors and ideas that all feel like red herrings because they’re never fully developed and explored. Segments end just as they get interesting; key scenes are unnecessarily drawn-out and dramatically flat; the details of this post-apocalyptic reality are sloppy and inconsistent; it’s an odd hodgepodge of styles that feel like ill-fitting pieces of a dollar-store jigsaw puzzle. If it sometimes comes off as an experimental art film, rest assured, it’s most likely the result of budget limitations.
The “knockers” segment has the most heft, as it follows the protagonists on a psychological journey inspired by Annihilation and the end of, but with wiseass dialogue that clunks when it should snap. The characters show a little personal baggage and end up in a tense confrontation, but the conflict is underdeveloped, and the vignette winds up being clumsy and dissatisfying. The other segments only land glancing blows in an attempt to be dramatically relevant — Ash is a non-binary object of bullying, and Jamal and a friend stand at the cusp of something great, expressed via this ridiculous line of dialogue: “We can be cosmic explorers like we always talked about!” Too bad this movie’s exploration of its concept only goes knee-deep at best.
Our Call: SKIP IT. Doors has a compelling concept, but lacks the follow-through to truly engage us dramatically or intellectually. It’s not necessarily dull, but it never really works.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work ator follow him on Twitter: .