Today’s randomly determined horror pick is a movie on Netflix that is currently sitting at slightly more than 1 and a half stars. That combined with the fact that I had never heard of it before did not fill me with much confidence. I had just managed to get two good films in a row, though, so I figured the luck could last forever. With all those incredibly low expectations, it turns out the film wasn’t all that bad. Nor, however, was it all that good.
Altar really wants to remind you of The Shining. Like, more than anything else in this movie, I think it wanted to gain some good will by at least making you remember a film that was actually good. The plot centers around a family that goes to an old house that the mother has been contracted to renovate. Given that sentence, I don’t think it’s going to be much of a spoiler if I tell you the house is haunted by the previous owners. Their spirits get revived when a drop of the husbands blood gets on the floor of a hidden room, which is more Hellraiser than Shining, to be honest. However, the husband then starts going more and more crazy while getting increasingly obsessed with his art. There is also a scene that mimics Danny going through the halls on his big wheel but it’s the young son driving a remote controlled car around the halls.
The haunting takes off super quick. We get a scene with some ghost imagery in a picture that was taken and then we jump immediately to an extended full body ghost appearance to the daughter. The ghost effects in the film are exceedingly cheap. Perhaps cheap isn’t the right word. More like…simplistic. Most of the time there is something supernatural going on, it’s conveyed through fuzzy camera and some weird layering effect of the image. It doesn’t come off as being creepy in any way and instead feels like when a movie is trying to be artsy about something. Like I could see the exact same effects being used in a movie to convey that a guy was crazy in love with someone and if it wasn’t for the screechy, horror music then I wouldn’t have really gotten that it was supposed to be scary.
The ghosts motives are also a little strange. It is a husband and a wife that died there and we know that the ghost husband is trying to possess or at least control the living husband. We even find out he wants to have him and his wife live on in this new couple using the titular altar. The ghost wife, however, seems content to just wander around and occasionally scare some children. She was murdered by the husband so you might think she is trying to oppose him in some way? But no, she does literally nothing of consequence in the movie aside from be creepy. At one point, the husband, Alec, ends up committing spousal rape and the ghost just stands there outside the hall. Is she into this? Does she want to stop it but lacks the power? Who knows! The movie’s ending has a shocking twist that I don’t think I even need to tell you because knowing it has a twist is probably enough for you to guess how it ends.
The movie is mostly weak without being particularly bad. While the effects are nothing special and the plot could use some tightening up, I did think they used atmosphere well and didn’t resort to jump scares. I give Altar a 2.5 out of 5.
Favorite thing in the movie: The daughter never got talked out of her experience. She was like “Fuck you, I saw a ghost. Let’s leave.” the entire time.
Least favorite thing: The children. They are basically pointless, have no plot points, and feel like they were stuck into the movie at random.