Altar: A Review
by Luce Allan
In the hopes of coaxing her autistic younger brother, Bo, out of his shell, Maisy Marks convinces him to join her and her old college friends on a camping trip in the mountains. After a late-night journey through the surrounding woods, however, the group's encounter with an altar encircled by illuminated blue stones ignites an inferno of ancient voices whose supernatural influences are awakened by the group's interference. Altar(2016) explores the familiar found-footage realm of ever-tightening dread and isolation.
While Altar does not present any new ideas in the found-footage genre, there are several solid aspects of the film. The cast boosts the movie through the organic chemistry between the actors and the strength of their overall performances. Stefanie Estes (Maisy) and Jesse Parr (Bo) particularly shine due to the genuine sweetness and love that they breathe into their characters' sibling relationship. Estes fluctuates between strength and vulnerability with ease, and Parr infuses his presence with subtle and plausible complexities. The cinematography is appealing with its skillful lighting and utilization of the natural scenery's beauty, and successfully captures several bursts of horror.
Despite the robustness of Altar's technical qualities, the plot itself suffers from uneven pacing, with much of the action relegated to the last thirty minutes of the film. The bulk of the storyline is focused on the college friends' interaction with one another, and the length of this exposition weakened its sense of foreboding and intrigue. The lore of the altar itself is vague and its inclusion in the story is brief, which gives the ending a rushed tone.
Overall, Altar is a film that may appeal to die-hard fans of the found-footage genre, but may not rise above tropes enough to hold the interest of the general horror audience.
Altar is a found footage film about a bunch of terrible people who get lost in the woods, make some stupid choices, and ultimately end up dead. It took about ten minutes for me to start picking which charters I wanted to die. All of them. I wanted them all to die. The only question was which one I wanted to eat it first the frat boy douche, his bimbo girlfriend, or the protagonist/camera man that did nothing but whine through the entire movie.
I'm a pretty open minded guy and I appreciate a good slow burner that builds atmosphere and suspense. But when you hit the one hour mark of an hour and a half long movie and all you've got is some weak exposition about how the obviously autistic character is autistic you've left the territory of slow burn and fell headlong into boring. The payoff doesn't come until about the last five minutes and by that point its almost not worth it. Almost.
I will say this, the concept was cool. There's an altar in the woods that might be a the prison for an evil spirit that gets out and possesses people and makes them go on a killing spree wielding a badass knife. But that's literally all we get out of it. There's more focus on some douche cheating on his barely legal slam piece than on the demonic spirit lurking in the woods waiting to stab the shit out of everybody.
Bottom line, I was in the headspace to enjoy just about anything. I mean, I get a good buzz on and the Twilight movies are interesting. Not this one though, I wouldn't recommend this one to anybody.