Portal Runner, no relation to the PlayStation game of the same name, gets off to a fast start. It’s December 24th 1999 and fifteen year old Nolan (Sloane Morgan Siegel, Hate Crime, The Call) just appeared out of a mirror and begins rigging some wicked looking booby traps for whatever’s chasing him. Unfortunately it just shrugs off their effects forcing Nolan to exit via another mirror.
This time when he exits, he finds himself in Mae’s (Elise Eberle, Salem, Chasing the Devil) closet. She wants to know why her brother is hiding in her closet. He wants to know who this person claiming to be his sister is.
Director Cornelia Duryée (The Dark Horse, West of Redemption) and writers J.D. Henning and Tallis Moore have tapped into the idea of parallel universes for Portal Runner’s story. Nolan can travel between them, the result of an experiment gone wrong. Usually he encounters the same thing, but this time there’s a few major difference. He has a sister for one.
And his father Randall (Matt Shimkus, The Gamers: Hands of Fate, A Bit of Bad Luck), whose experiment set all this off, has been missing for most of his life. Can he convince Mae and the rest of his family that he’s not crazy before whatever it is that he’s running from catches up to him again?
I went into Portal Runner expecting a young adult version of Jet Li’s The One, but that’s really not a good comparison. Yes, something is determined to kill Nolan off across multiple dimensions, but that’s really the only similarity. Rather than using his fists, Nolan has to out think his adversary. Though Uncle Boon (Brian S. Lewis, Depth, Timetravel_0) isn’t opposed to letting a shotgun do the talking if it comes to that.
Portal Runner does a fairly good job of explaining how Nolan and his pursuer can travel across universe. As long as you don’t think about it too hard that is. The script makes enough sense that you don’t question it and even includes little details such as the effect the way the mirror is facing has on travel. But it isn’t really about dimensional travel either.
What it is about is family. Nolan wasn’t expecting to encounter his family for reasons the film does explain. Instead he not only meets them, he finds out he has more family than he thought. It’s about his bonding with them and discovering he wants to stay with them. But also knowing that by doing so he’s putting them at risk.
Despite these serious themes, Portal Runner is actually a fun and fast paced movie. Unlike The Reenactment, another film set in the 1990s that I reviewed yesterday, it at least tries to get mileage out of its setting. The Y2K Bug and the end of the world fears it generated figures into the plot, as does the Dreamcast game system.
But while the film has a funny riff on the Sham-Wow! Commercials, (the full version is one of two scenes hidden in the credits), featuring Robert Picardo (976-Evil, Star Trek: Voyager) they didn’t hit the airwaves until somewhere around 2006. And anyone who remembers dialup modems will know Mae’s internet connection would have cut out when her mother picked up the phone. Most of Portal Runner’s target audience probably won’t notice those details though.
Despite those historical issues though, Portal Runner is an entertaining film that has the good sense to stay within its budget and keep its running time short. It’s one you can watch with your kids and not be bored.
Portal Runner is available on streaming platforms including Tubi and On Demand from Kairos Productions and Terror Films. You can go to Terror Films’ website or the film’s Facebook page for more information.