In the interest of pedantry, I should mention that the titular Portal to Hell!!! doesn’t actually lead to hell but “Riley,” or R’lyeh, the ancient underwater city home to dread Cthulhu. But that’s not the point. The point is that said portal has been opened in the basement of the apartment building where Jack (Roddy Piper) serves as superintendent. It’s not the only inconvenience he has to deal with today – tenants interrupt his reading with blocked toilets, burned-out light bulbs, and broken toasters – but it’s the only one that has the potential to bring about the end of the world.
In Portal, director Vivieno Caldinelli and writer Matt Watts deliver an uproarious and affectionate sendup of H.P. Lovecraft’s fictional mythos. Fittingly, the only thing standing between humankind and an utter apocalypse of madness is Jack, to whom Piper brings a bit of an Everyman quality. While he doesn’t see closing the portal as just another annoying thing to fix, he possesses a world-weary quality that allows him to keep his head while everyone else goes completely mental around him.
Caldinelli and Watts further populate the film with endearingly eccentric supporting characters (including a pair of cultists named for horror scribes Richard Matheson and Stephen King and a resident so afraid of heights he can’t bring himself to climb a stepstool) and low-budget but effective gore. Perfectly balancing revulsion (if not necessarily horror) with humor, Portal to Hell!!! is a delightful splatstick romp along the lines of The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu. I advise fans of horror-comedy to not pass it up.
Screens as part of Short Cuts Programme 4:
Saturday, September 12, 10:00 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Friday, September 18, 6:00 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Ticket information can be found at the TIFF website.