Written and directed by Matthew Sconce, Altar is one of the latest found footage films to find its way onto DVD. Containing all of the usual horror tropes that have come to be expected from the genre, Altar is a surprisingly efficient low budget affair. With a running time of only 84 minutes, the film feels like a breeze and although the horror elements are few and far between, the strong chemistry between the characters is believable enough to inject some life into proceedings.
So what’s it all about, we hear you shout. Well, stop us if you’ve heard this one before but Altar tells the story of a group of former college friends who get lost whilst driving to a college reunion camp out in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. After stopping for the night, they stumble upon something much darker and soon find themselves having to escape the evil they have unleashed. Now, although the storyline doesn’t offer much in terms of originality and the characters may be a few shades away from caricature, there’s something strangely endearing about Altar. The script (for the most part) is tight, the directing is handled effectively and the acting is pretty solid.
That’s not to say Altar is without its faults. Having been made on a low budget, there are a few missteps along the way such as the actual altar itself which resembles something that has been made by a high school's art department. You then have the occasional appearance of a character named Ripper (Michael Wainwright) who looks and sounds as if he’s came straight out of a Scooby-Doo cartoon. With his gravelly voice, blank stare and stiff demeanour, his inclusion into the film has a tendency to take the viewer out of the action.
However it’s the interactions between the main characters that set this movie apart from most low budget horrors. There are no contrived scenarios in which characters suddenly fall out, there are no silly rivalries, it’s just a bunch of characters that all get along...and strangely enough, those were the bits that stood out most.
But what about the horror!? Well, we do briefly get a bit of horror towards the end which although effectively done, it’s all too brief and sudden to have any real impact. By the films abrupt finish, you’ll be left wondering what the whole thing was all about. So is Altar worth checking out? Well, not exactly. There are plenty of other good pickings out there to choose from however if you’re truly in dire straits as to what to watch then this movie will certainly do no harm.
ALTAR / CERT: TBA / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: MATTHEW SCONCE / STARRING: STEFANIE ESTES, TIM PARRISH, BRITTANY FALARDEAU / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW