Portal feels like an episode for The Twilight Zone (1959-63) having been expanded out to a feature-length film. Or maybe Groundhog Day (1993) having been played as a horror film and mixed up with something like City of the Dead/Horror Hotel (1959). A sneaking part of one kept wondering as Chris Conrad was being given dire warnings about what would happen if he ate the meat or drank the wine, if one had not strayed into a straight version of Troll 2 (1990). Although the film that Portal reminds of more than anything is the childrens horror film Phantom Town (1998).
Portal sits just on the verge of being a typical low-budget horror film and rising above itself. It wavers either way without substantially going in one direction or the other. The film becomes interestingly eerie during the middle in the scenes where Chris Conrad fails to take the food and wine and attempts to leave town with best friend Alexander Martin only to find they are in a timeloop and everything is repeating itself right down to the dialogue from when they first drove into town. Similarly, he goes into the dining room and sits down with the party of people who all repeat the same dialogue except for the fact that Roy (Mike Kimmel)s wife (Tamara Zook) has been killed and he does not seem to remember that she never existed. Newlywed arrivals turn up, the husband is killed and the stunned wife (Ines Dali) turns up at the dinner table, is given a drink of wine and her confusion goes to an instant who? when asked about her other half. Or the scenes when Chris Conrad gradually realizes that everything he believes about how he came to be there might be a wine-and-food-drugged illusion too and that he has another friend and a girlfriend that he has lost all memory of, even some confused scenes where he appears to be the chief impregnator of the women.
Geoffrey Schaaf handles the film professionally for the most part. There is the odd scene that falls down. The opticals look cheap, meaning the devouring flames detract from the conviction of the scenes, while the gore and fight scenes at the climax are not particularly convincing. All the cast give fine and professional performances with the standout being Angell Conwell who projects a decided seductive ambiguity.
After the one-hour point, things start to get drawn out beyond the initial interest the idea has. The point that Portal started to fall down was the lame twist ending. [PLOT SPOILERS] The group escape, Chris Conrads girlfriend Jessica Barth gives birth to her baby whereupon the camera closes in as the crucifix on the wall as it ominously turns upside down and the camera then fades to black. It is a corny ending and one that seems to leave any explanations for the timeloop and the reasons that the witches were keeping people imprisoned in the hotel vague and unexplained.