One day, the doors appeared, and within weeks, millions were missing or presumed dead. Well, it is kind of a misnomer to call the alien objects “doors,” but that is the moniker given to them by the terrified people who remained on Earth. Set in the uncertain future affected by these objects, Doors is an ambitious but frustrating science-fiction anthology of three stories that came together under the creative direction of Saman Kesh (who also conceived of the ideas herein with Chris White and wrote or co-wrote every story).

There is nothing wrong with an anthology — indeed, there have been good ones in recent years — but there is a problem with a lack of specifics within these stories. This is a shame, too, because each story has a lot of potential in the ways they touch upon the human responses to these “doors.” It even presents as a fairly cohesive idea at large: We humans would be curious about, then retaliatory toward, an invasion of this magnitude, and finally, we would try to communicate. By giving us three stories about such encounters in that order, Kesh, White and their team of fellow directors and screenwriters are on to something.

In the first story, “Lockdown” (directed by Jeff Desom and written by Kesh), we follow a group of high school kids — Ash (Kathy Khanh), Jake (Aric Generette Floyd), Lizzie (Julianne Collins), and Rory (Rory Anne Dahl) — serving a detention period, until the doors arrive. Abandoned by their teacher, who doesn’t even unlock a cupboard to return their phones to them, the kids next find themselves in lockdown. Obviously, they break out and encounter (as do we) one of the first doors, which appear before people as strange obelisks — nearly solid black and seemingly covered in what appears to the eyes as a black fungus.

They speak, too, first in words that appear onscreen and reverberate within the minds of the observers, ushering them closer to themselves and encouraging violence and every kind of negative thought that might be entertained in its presence. It’s a pretty impressive visual idea, featured in each story and captured by their directors in a herky-jerky fashion that never quite allows the thing to fill the frame. That seems fitting for such an unknowable, alien object.

In the second story, “Knockers” (directed and co-written — with Ed Hobbs — by Kesh), the doors have finally presented something of a threat with all the disappearances and deaths, and teams of armed scientists, called “knockers,” have been formed. We follow three scientists (Lina Esco, Josh Peck and Dugan O’Neal) in their attempt to enter the frozen and hallucinatory space on the opposite side of the door, which leads to a lot of strange behavior and simply more questions for the audience.

It’s around this time that the frustration sets in, and not even the third and best story in this anthology (which also features the framing device of a podcast host, played by David Hemphill, who theorizes about the doors and pays the price for his conspiracies) can quite help the film to overcome that frustration. It is admirable that the filmmakers have brought up genuine ideas and asked intriguing questions, but they extend only to the concerns of the plot here.

This is why the third story, “Lamaj” (directed and co-written — with Kesh — by O’Neal), is so promising. In it, a man named Jamal (Kyp Malone) has figured out a way to communicate with a door he has trapped and of which he has not informed the authorities. Only when his ex-girlfriend (Kristina Lear), her new boyfriend (Bira Vanara), and an interloping cop (Wilson Bethel) come into the situation does it all go to crap, and only with this more direct encounter with a door do we come to understand a bit about its mechanics and purpose.

By this point, though, the frustration of experiencing Doors as a thoughtful but vague sci-fi thriller has overtaken our appreciation of its ambition and ideas. Each story is intriguing on its own, but the pieces, when put together, are part of an underwhelming whole.

Each story is intriguing on its own, but the pieces, when put together, are part of an underwhelming whole.
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But Why? And How?
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