Altar

      Publisher: Movie Heroes Studios 
      Label: Movie Heroes Studios
      Format: Digital
      RRP: £7.99
      Starring: Stefanie Estes, Jesse Parr, Brittany Falardeau, Deep Rai, Jessica Strand, Tim Parrish
      Directed By: Matt Sconce
      Released:  2017-07-01

 

 


The terrifying story of a group of former college classmates who get lost driving to a college reunion camp out in the Sierra Nevada mountains. After stopping for the night, they stumble onto something much darker. They must battle to escape the evil they unleashed to not only save their own lives but their souls as well. She wants you to find her...


 

A found footage movie that should have stayed lost.

 

As the likes of Chupacabra Territory show, anyone can make a found footage movie; all you need is a camcorder (or these days, a smartphone or GoPro) and the impetus to get up, go somewhere and start filming. You’ll note, however, that missing from that list are a plot, a decent script and a talented cast. This is appropriate because A) those aren’t requirements unique to found footage flicks and B) because they are also missing from Altar, a movie whose director is also the writer, and which appears – at least, according to the scant information available online – to have been self-published as a direct-to-digital download. Now as YouTube proves, a self-publication platform doesn’t necessarily confirm a low-quality product, but when it comes to horror films – an industry which has published actual, physical DVDs for the likes of The Shark Exorcist* - having to rely on one really is not a good sign.

The film opens with a just-married couple filming their arrival at their honeymoon venue via GoPro. Post-coitus – the husband switches off the camera for the sex but, strangely, switches it back on as he examines his freshly-showered body in the hotel suite mirror – the couple hear a knock at their door. The husband opens it to see the living embodiment of every “creepy stranger from a redneck horror movie” stereotype (Michael Wainwright) claiming to be from the hotel’s “entertainment committee”; he warns the couple not to go on “the midnight hike” which, naturally, they do anyway, only to get lost and stumble across an abandoned Halloween decoration masquerading as a movie prop and a woman, hunched over and holding a knife dripping with blood. Mr Redneck then appears from nowhere, murders the woman and murders the couple. Cut to cheap titles and… the world’s dullest road-trip.

Yes, this unsurprising and non-terrifying opening is, in fact, the last sample of horror that Altar offers for over an hour of its 84 minute running time, the final 4 minutes of which are closing credits. Before the panicked blend of shaky camera work and poor CGI that marks the last five minutes of the film proper, the viewer is treated to 70 minutes of lengthy, boring, poorly acted and poorly directed found footage in which a handful of paid actors and a bunch of improv students in a second car drive across the US for a reunion camping trip. The trip is being filmed by Bo, the younger brother of one of the campers and whose Autism – which is thankfully confirmed in dialogue around 25 minutes into the film, thus avoiding unfortunate comparisons between Bo and Denny from The Room – is used as the justification for bringing him on the trip and him obsessively filming everything. In fairness, every movie in the found footage genre has to address that central conceit in some form, but Director/Screenwriter Matt Sconce seems to think that it addresses everything, including the needless narration that accompanies a lot of the footage.

Eventually, of course, the characters go exploring in the wilderness and stumble upon the titular altar, which genuinely looks like it was stolen from the set of a small-town haunted house attraction (and who knows? Maybe it was!) and which is surrounded with painfully obvious LEDs, which the characters insist on referring to as “glowing blue stones”. Naturally, this leads to a confrontation with Mr. Redneck – who introduces himself earlier in the film as “Ripper” – and the ominous proclamation that they’ve “let HER out!” by taking one of those little plastic lights. This then leads to the film’s one and only jump-scare, one character inexplicably getting possessed and a brief but homicidal rampage, and a single glimpse of whatever “she” is. It’s certainly scarier than Chupacabra Territory, but then again so is Paw Patrol.

All of Altar’s problems boil down to a director who has clearly seen The Blair Witch Project – and yes, that film specifically rather than the myriad of other found footage flicks which surround it – and thinks he can do something exactly the same, but has missed the point of what makes that movie succeed. What The Blair Witch Project exposits in background detail, brief lines of dialogue or short takes, Altar lingers over longer than necessary; what it does with careful construction Altar does by throwing concepts at the screen and seeing what sticks. The most cardinal sin of all is that Sconce never explains or even implies just what exactly “she” is; there are no local legends, Bo’s documentary is focused on nothing more than friends camping, and there are no weird, grumpy old me warning the protagonists to “stay off t’moors”. This so-called “big bad” is nothing more than another idea lobbed casually screenwards, and so there is no build-up to a big reveal or big scare; just a soft, flabby mess which throws away the scant few decent ideas it has over the ignorance of what to do with them.

It would be a struggle to recommend Altar if it were available on a physical disc for a pound; eight times that amount for a digital copy seems almost insulting. Avoid.


GeekPlanetOnline.com

 

 

 

* No, don’t waste your money. The shark is not the exorcist, nor is a shark exorcised.