Sunday, 29 November 2015


Like many men of my age, as a youngster I grew a real love for WWF wrestling. All my friends were fans of Hulk Hogan or the Ultimate Warrior, but I quickly came to appreciate the work of another larger than life character. He was cocky, swaggering, unpredictable, wild... and he wore a kilt.
This man was 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper.
Later on I discovered John Carpenter's cult classic They Live and with his portrayal of wise-cracking everyman pushed too far, John Nada, Piper cemented his status as one of my heroes.
Recently Piper passed away, aged just 61. His last role was in Vivieno Caldinelli's successfully crowdfunded short, Portal to Hell!!!
I'd like to dedicate this review to Mr Piper.

PORTAL TO HELL!!! (2015)

Dir: Vivieno Caldinelli
Starring: Roddy Piper, Laura Robinson, Matt Watts, Jordan Todosey, Millie Davis, Donald Tripe, Clyde Whitham

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: Jack (Piper) is an ageing superintendent in a crumbling old apartment block. Life for him consists of a series of menial repair jobs, heralded by an irritating phonecall from one of the building's tenants.
They're an odd bunch, and all Jack wants is to give them a wide berth as he enjoys a little peace and quiet in which to read his book, even if there are a few tasks still on his to-do list.
However, one day a power cut sends him down into the basement where he discovers odd residents Mr King (Whitham) and Mr Mathieson (Tripe) clad in just their underwear and robes, daubing arcane symbols on their flesh and walls and chanting 'R'lyeh'.
It seems Jack's reading has been disturbed by a pair of disciples of a certain tentacle-faced Old God... and now he needs to deal with a Lovecraftian menace along with blocked toilets, blown bulbs and faulty generators. 
Can the mop-wielding hero forge a happy ending in the face of a timeless adversary? And can the building's inhabitants survive?

WHY IT WORKS: If the simple premise of 'They Live'-style 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper vs Cthulhu makes you sit up and pay attention, you already know why you need to see this film.
If it doesn't, what the Hell is wrong with you? Smack yourself around the face, then get yourself out to watch Portal to Hell!!! immediately.
The film delivers exactly what you want — and by far the biggest of its assets is one Roddy Piper. A charismatic lead, he channels They Live's Nada, albeit with a few more miles on the clock, to give us a pissed off hero who REALLY doesn't want to be saving the world right now.
Piper's performance is flawless, at times loveably earnest, at others witheringly sardonic. His delivery is always impeccable, whether it be world-weary complaints or Eighties action-movie badass one-liners. Even his physical acting is marvellous, with the barely restrained fury in the 'look of death' he shoots towards his telephone tormentor one of my favourite things in the short.
Janitor Jack is one of the very finest heroes I've seen all year, and as final roles go, it's a fitting send-off for one of the most underrated B Movie action heroes of all time. RIP Roddy.
Elsewhere the rest of the cast also deliver, with Tripe and Whitham's oddball cultists among the standouts. The characters deliver plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and make the most of their limited screentime. I also loved the work of Robinson as Jack's would-be love interest Jeanie, and Watts as wimpy resident Mark who ends up embroiled in Jack's struggle with Cthulhu and his minions. Alongside him the feisty Todosey impresses as a babysitter who is not prepared to take any of this shit, while young Davis delivers a great big dose of creepy as her charge.
The cast are helped in bringing their characters to life by the wonderful writing. The story, by the talented Watts, is one of those fun ideas that I can't believe nobody has thought of before, combining the interdimensional, sanity-draining horrors of HP Lovecraft (one of the very greatest genre writers of all time) with the grimy, real-world banality of slacker-style comedies. It's an utterly compelling collision of vastly different worlds, but the script's biggest strength is that it has plenty of great characterisation for the cast to sink their teeth into. With cracking dialogue and plenty of laughs, Portal to Hell!!! is a genuinely fun film.
Caldinelli uses quick cuts, kinetic camerawork and brilliant pacing to suck the audience in and keep us all entertained throughout the whole runtime. It's every bit as polished as features with far higher budgets than this short. It is seriously entertaining and shows that Caldinelli is a director to watch.
One area in which the professionalism and fun combine is in the fantastic practical effects work by Astron 6's Steven Kostanski. We get plenty of bloody, oozy carnage as characters shed bodyparts, plus some suitably fleshy tentacles from the diabolical entities that are looking to force their way into our world. There's even some polished visual effects from the team that bring the titular Portal to Hell and the otherworldly landscape and its residents to life. It's all suitably over the top and splattery — just one more crowd-pleasing element of a film that I'm sure will be a massive success on the festival circuit.

SO WHERE'S IT AT? Portal to Hell!!! has just hit the festival circuit, while all of the film's backers have been sent their screener link to the short. 
Head over to the film's official Facebook page here for more information on how and when you might be able to catch it. Give it a Like while you're there too!

10 WORD WRAP-UP: Roddy Piper delivers last great performance in awesome Lovecraftian romp 

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