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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 17.14%
Just Average: 2.86%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 17.14%

1 review, 29 user ratings

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Doorway, The
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Particularly Hoary Horror Flick"
1 stars

Even on a trashy level, this abysmal piece of cinematic hodgepodge fails to entertain on even the most basic level.

If a director is saddled with a very low budget for a horror film that involves ghosts and demons, then, granted that the best of special effects aren't going to be afforded him, the best course of action is to insinuate and suggest much of the horrifics, otherwise a laughable and cheesy production is likely to be the end result. Now, if the director is someone like Sam Raimi, who did such imaginative work in The Evil Dead with blood packets and stop-motion photography, then this indirect course of presentation is not necessary. However, the writer/director of The Doorway, Michael B. Druxman, is no Sam Raimi, and, judging from his truly abysmal work here, isn't even in the dubious league of an Edward D. Wood. The result: a horror film with not one valid scare but more than a handful of unintentional laughs to its disreputable credit.

What we have here in the way of a story is four college students (two boys and two girls, of course) staying in a creepy house for a month that they've agreed to renovate for a realtor in exchange for free rent and ten-thousand dollars. Of course, none of them has laid eyes on the house before; once they get there, before even having set a foot inside, three out of the four are already leery over the prospect. They relent, however, and for, oh, three hours, anyway, things go pretty well. But then things start to go awry. You know the routine: strange noises with no clear point of origin are heard ("What was that?"); objects start moving from one place to another on their own ("Were you messing with the dolls in my room?"); the teens start to have bad dreams ("It was horrible!"); and routinely bad dialogue is mouthed ("Yeah, and Cameron Diaz might have my baby!").

The reason for all this, it's revealed, is due to the fact that, well, the house just happens to have been built on the same grounds where devil worshiping was practiced back in the seventeenth century. A book in the house conveniently lays this out, along with the fact that the original owner served as the practitioner over these ceremonies, which involved humans having sex with demons. How is this relevant to the current strange events? Well, a female demon is still prowling throughout the house, invading the teens' dreams and inhabiting their libidos, causing the hero of the piece not only to act like an animal in the sack with his girlfriend but to manipulate the other girl into surrendering to his advances not five minutes after his previous orgasm. When he's caught out, he pleads to ignorance and loss of memory. And, hell, if you must know, when Lydia the Female Demon materializes for all to see, the teens, apparently not welcoming of unfriendly party-crashers, flee the house.

Up to now, The Doorway has already trotted out enough all-out absurdness for a dozen or so bad films. It's not enough that Druxman's screenplay is a half-ass compilation of Better Horror Films Past, but his direction indicates a completely failed film sense at work, the kind that apparently couldn't detect what would have played out effectively and what is in fact playing out so absurdly. That old tired device of something sneaking up on a character, materializing before their eyes, yet disappearing right before the other parties can see it hasn't been sprinkled with any freshness or invention here. And neither has the ol' False Scare -- you know, where a non-threatening cat or prankster jumps out of a corner to scare the living daylights out of a keyed-up innocent.

To give credit where it's due, when one of the girls is in the shower (yep, some decent nudity is displayed) and we think the impending threat is her boyfriend, it actually turns out to be a severed hand touching her shoulder. But this is for moot due to Druxman's inadequate staging: wires or strings from above are too obviously responsible for the hand's placement and movement. This can also be applied to the laughable hovering and floating of Demon Lydia, where we groan more than hoot at the sight simply because it's depressing to think that someone with a director's credit to his name was obtuse enough to think this was brought off even remotely well. And while we're on the subject of Demon Lydia, why isn't she even the least bit alluring to the guys? Maybe because she's more filthy than sexy, which betrays the concept that she's supposed to serve as a gothic seductress. In John Irvin's 1981 Ghost Story, that red-haired beauty of an actress Alice Krige made for a palpable sexy monstrosity; here, Lydia's portrayer, Teresa DePriest, is so unflatteringly photographed with cakes of cobwebs and dirt that the only thing she plausibly threatens to do is sprout mushrooms.

And I haven't even gotten to the matter of poor Roy Scheider showing up at the halfway mark as some sort of poor-man's ghostbuster who makes Bill Murray's Peter Venkman seem like Einstein by comparison. Who would have thought that twenty-one years after his sensational, Oscar-nominated performance as Broadway sensation Bob Fosse's alter ego in All That Jazz Scheider would be doing the slumming-for-a-paycheck thing in a piece of bottom-barrel tripe like this? As ever, he makes for an agreeable screen presence and even manages to pick up the pace a little as the disgraced parapsychologist serving out a joyless tenure at the local university. But his only viable function is to spout out a bunch of mumbo-jumbo concerning poltergeists and the like in an attempt to lend credence to the story. For Scheider's sake, he's not around all that long (his scenes were probably shot inside of three days) but he still doesn't escape unscathed, especially after having to say "Leave before I flunk you right out of here. See you in class!".

The second-half involves the teens (idiotically) going back to the house to try to close "the doorway" that threatens to grant passageway to all the demons passing through the Gates of Hell. Oh, have I referred to the character of Evelyn, who's not only Lydia's look-alike (sans grit and grime, of course) but also a descendant of the same Van Buren family that knocked boots with the demons some four hundred years ago? If I didn't, don't fret -- nothing interesting at all comes from it. For the most part, Evelyn, instead of serving as a worthy heroine, is basically around to tell the teens what's in store for them and that what they're experiencing is definitely not a figment of their imaginations (how good to know, this is!). And when it comes time for the intended terrifying finale, with the doorway threatening to open, director Druxman again fumbles the ball with a barrage of clunky staging, jumbled editing, hokey lighting, and enough bad computer-generated effects so as to make that awful fake tiger in Gladiator seem convincing in retrospect.

The Doorway is too lame to work as effective horror and too heavy-handed to exist as one of those giddy guilty pleasures. Good haunted-house films can be found on home video, mind you -- Dan Curtis' Burnt Offerings, Gus Trikonis' The Evil, and Peter Medak's The Changeling come immediately to mind -- but invention, zest, and deft control are required on the part of the director and screenwriter(s) to pull one off. Michael B. Druxman pulled both duties here, and has come up short on both counts. It's not enough that the last thing he directed was thirty-six years ago -- an unheard of oddity called Genesis, which (according to the imdb.com website) is some kind of Adam & Eve allegory set in Manhattan without the benefit of an Eve -- but his best-known screenplay is a Midnight Run-inspired atrocity called Keaton's Cop, which tiredly showcased Lee Majors and Abe Vigoda engaging in one of those cop-and-criminal-on-the-run kind of things. Lastly, Druxman's biography reveals that he teaches screenwriting and has in fact published ten books on the subject -- two sad facts which sent more shivers down my spine than anything in The Doorway managed to.

And you thought the 1999 remake of "The Haunting" was bad...

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=5090&reviewer=327
originally posted: 12/19/02 10:19:18
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User Comments

12/13/08 Lucy Anderson Loved it! 5 stars
11/11/07 Steve Cane Good little thriller with humor 5 stars
6/30/07 Gene Castle Clever haunted house tale 5 stars
7/30/06 Stella Nifty 5 stars
11/29/05 S.K. I found this film enjoyable. 5 stars
11/15/05 Lloyd Raskin Scared me 5 stars
7/13/05 H. Lawson Good film. 5 stars
12/30/04 W. Hull A very good haunted houe movie 5 stars
8/23/04 Peter Friedman Good job! 5 stars
12/13/03 David Anthony Nicely done rehash of old cliches. 5 stars
8/19/03 Barbara Carter I liked it! 5 stars
6/26/03 Sandra Stevens Nifty little thriller. 5 stars
5/25/03 Tom Blackburn Fantastic black comedy 5 stars
4/30/03 Ralph Clarke It had me biting my nails. 5 stars
3/29/03 Andi Wolf Great example of supernatural thriller mixed with black comedy 5 stars
3/24/03 Jacob Young SCARY, ABSOLUTELY SCARY! 5 stars
3/07/03 Gloria Gates Spooky! 4 stars
2/26/03 Jack Hull Great black comedy. Loved the shower scene and the way that Roy Scheider died. 5 stars
2/12/03 Melvin Pick Blood, guts, nudity and some laughs. What more could you want? 5 stars
2/06/03 Jason Griffin Good movie. 4 stars
2/04/03 Betty Ann McDonald I've seen better. I've seen worse. 3 stars
2/01/03 Colin Shenson Clever script. Some good performances, particularly by Don Maloney. Enjoyable "B" movie. 4 stars
1/29/03 S. A. Dobrin Not bad. 4 stars
1/29/03 Gene Keller Not great, but a lot better than what your critic says. His review is just plain nasty. 4 stars
1/29/03 Ida Rudolph Different and unusual. The best haunted house movie since THE CHANGELING. 5 stars
1/26/03 Carol Russo Very entertaining! 5 stars
1/25/03 Steve Sanchez Scared the s**t out of me! 4 stars
1/19/03 Al Simmons Spooky & funny. I liked this one. 5 stars
4/25/01 Frank Austin The funniest black comedy I've seen in years. 5 stars
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  02-Mar-2000 (R)


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