Reviewed by Nomad
Starring Christa Denton, Stephen Dorff, Deborah Grover, Carl Kraines, Kelly Rowan
Directed by Tibor Takács
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
The idea of a “kid’s” horror movie is not a new one, though it is definitely not territory visited often. Sure, we’ve got Goosebumps and the like, but theaters seldom play host to a full length horror show for your eight to tween set. Thankfully, we can all relive the 80’s via DVD and miraculous Blu-ray in this day and age. While The Gate only enjoys a DVD release for now, it’s no less a banner moment for horror fans and their children looking for those starter films that won’t leave them scarred for life.
Glen (Dorff) and Al (Denton) spend their days in the typical younger brother/older sister struggle for dominance. That is to say, Glen demands attention and his sister does her best to ditch him. This leaves Glen to his own devices, which usually leads to chaos and destruction of property. When he teams up with his manic metal loving friend Terry (Tripp), the odds of destruction triple. The pair unwittingly uncover a hole that has contained little creatures who serve “the old ones’; an obvious nod to Lovecraftian themes. Things quickly escalate and the trio find themselves as the last line of defense between our pleasant world and demonic hordes with voracious appetites. How could children battle such forces? Hollywood finds a way!!
A super mini Stephen Dorff foreshadows the intensity he’d bring to the screen many years later, in an almost comical manner. While the rest of the kids in the neighborhood are shooting each other with imaginary ray guns, Glen is probably plotting how he might launch himself into space. His partner in crime, Terry, is only too happy to help him build the catapult to make the attempt. This counterpoint is exceedingly enjoyable to watch as one child formulates an idea and then the other agrees to a plot without hesitation; something only children seem to be able to do. This leaves the bratty but still well meaning sister Al struggling to keep up, but by the time that she does, people are getting eaten. Good timing! It will strike you how great the chemistry is between this motley crew, at that young age. You’ll often forget how young they are … and how laughably absent their parents are.
As this movie was made for kids, the look is often well lit, even when in (what should be) dark places. It’s clear the filmmakers explored every potential scene thoroughly and made decisions based on not wanting to freak children out too badly. Barely a drop of blood is dropped, even where there should be. One is reminded of Something Wicked, This Way Comes which I’ll still argue is an immensely creepy movie designed to torment kids into young adulthood. There is more blood in THAT Disney movie than you’ll find in The Gate but not by much of course. Never the less, there is an unsettling nature to this film, even years later as I watch as a (somewhat) full grown man. The undead workman in the wall is still a fantastic piece of makeup, even under the scrutiny of modern HD clarity. I’d say the giant Harryhausen-esque monster at the close of the film looks even better than my memory of it. It’s a pretty impressive accomplishment and testament to the filmmakers that this movie holds up so well and achieves a timeless quality. Save one amazing hairstyle on a female character (which you can probably see among teens today), you’d never even be able to pin down the movie as a product of the Eighties.
As this is the The Gate’s second run on DVD, we were expecting a nice pile of extras to quench a twenty-year thirst. Lionsgate delivers, easily making us forget all about that ridiculously bare-bones release from years ago. First and foremost, we get a commentary with director Tibor Takacs, writer Michael Nankin and special effects designer and supervisor Randall William Cook. On one hand, a die hard fan will love hearing the creators discuss their creations and the pitfalls that occurred while giving birth. On the other, unless you are used to the inevitable dead spots on most commentary tracks, you’ll get bored fairly quickly. These are not comedians at work. From Hell: Creatures and Demons of The Gate pays off for those of us wanting stories concerning the creation of those odd looking little beasties who twitch about the screen, the man in the wall and all the FX gags wrapped into this spooky little tale. GORGE YOURSELF! Just about anything I ever wanted to know was answered and I loved every minute of it.
The Gatekeepers with director and writer talking about the creation of this film is also very revealing, answering every question that was left! It’s fun to watch creators of a film like this dispel all the myths I’d heard over the years and at the same time, reveal how different it was to make a movie at that time. The original theatrical trailer is also included.
The Gate is a MUST HAVE movie for all horror fans and this special edition is absolutely worth the meager sixteen bucks! Lord knows who that hipster explorer kid is on the cover of this new DVD edition, but it’s easy to forget that he’s there while you enjoy owning a movie that’s nearly impossible not to love. With the charm of E.T., non threatening action akin to The Monster Squad and some quality low level creeps, consider this the first horror movie you can show your kids, opening them up to a whole new world that will make them the twisted individuals we will one day call … our readers.
4 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5
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