The Gate (1987)

The gate 1987 poster

Tagline: They have opened The Gate. Pray it’s not too late.

Director: Tibor Takács

Writer: Michael Nankin

Starring: Stephen Dorff, Christa Denton, Louis Tripp, Kelly Rowan, Jennifer Irwin, Deborah Grover, Scot Denton, Ingrid Veninger, Sean Fagan, Linda Goranson, Carl Kraines, Andrew Gunn

PG-13 | 1hr 25min | Fantasy, Horror

Budget: $2,500,000 (estimated)


The Gate is very much a film of two halves.

For a while the plot meanders as a watered down version of Poltergeist as nightmares and crackling lights and all round strange occurrences take hold of an everyday suburban residence. Predictably, the family’s parents are heading out of town for the weekend, leaving their two children and a friend home alone. Older sister and temporary adult Al (Denton) is planning a party, but as creepy silhouettes and mysterious floating objects begin to close in on our juvenile protagonists, responsibility rears its ugly head and familiarity begins to set in like rigamortis. 

The Gate 1987

With their parents away, racy movies were the first thing on their agenda.

Thankfully, it is then that events become rather more interesting as rabid zombie dogs and insidious apparitions hint at the presence of something much more tangible. I went into this movie expecting my fair share of scares and came out disappointed. Of course, it was only afterwards when I realised that the movie carries a PG-13 rating, and is actually aimed at a juvenile demographic, in spite of what the poster art and synopsis had led me to believe.

Taking this into consideration, the movie is actually pretty terrifying for the most part, and although miniature demons and melting heads may seem a little tepid through adult eyes, there is a reason why the film has something of a cult following for those children of the 80s, the very same reason I still had vivid memories of a scene in which peewee protagonist Glen (Stephen Dorff) stabs his hand with a shard of glass after a roving eyeball appears on his palm. I saw this movie only once many years ago, but this moment had been enough to convince me that this was in fact an all-out horror flick, and it speaks volumes about the effect of its imaginings on a younger mind that this one image had stayed with me all those years.

The Gate 1987 Eye

Still from a controversial documentary about the true nature of The Illuminati.

The Gate is a juvenile fantasy about a portal which leads into a realm of demons, a fact that Glen’s geeky friend Terry discovers after listening to a Spinal Tap style record and realising that the cheapo etch-a-sketch daubing that appeared the night prior is actually an invitation for the Old Gods to wreak havoc on the Earth. Add to this a drop of blood and canine death, and the boys and their spirited teenage sister are one sacrifice away from eternal damnation. The fact that the verbal antidote lies in playing Sacrafix’s record should come as no surprise to you.

But the movie is all about the special effects, which are pretty darned impressive for the time it was made. Highlights include a lumbering blue collar zombie intent on cross-dimension kidnapping, while the living room’s transformation into the realms of Beelzebub still stands up today. The movie’s miniature demons, swift and frenetic and deliciously rabid, are also quite the attraction, landing somewhere between The Gremlins and Critters, and proving the perfect recipe for the movie’s target audience.

The Gate Demons

The demon disco was in full swing.

Of course, all out chaos ensues, and after Al and Terry get sucked into the bowels of hell, it is up to pint-sized protagonist Glen to retrieve them from the clutches of a twenty foot super demon, vicariously fulfilling the infantile fantasies of watching kids the world over.

Most Absurd Moment

After firing a bottle rocket through the heart of a giant demon, hero Glen looks on in awe as a spectacular firework display bursts into life above the roof of his dilapidated home, clearing the sky of an insidious purple vacuum and bringing his friend, sister and dog back to life again. All of this, and not a single neighbour to check on the cataclysmic raucous occurring right on their doorstep.

Best Demon illusion

A presumed dead workman supposedly buried behind the walls of Glen’s house suddenly appears in an avalanche of plasterboard, pulling Terry back through the wall with him. Taking the initiative, the resolute Al smashes him in the face with a ghetto blaster, causing the zombie to fall and shatter into a gang of sperm-like demons, who then form to scurry forth like shards of smashed glass.

Most Cringing Moment

After he is snatched into the realms of hell, a feral-faced version of Terry appears in the closet and begins gnawing on Glen’s hand. Fortunately for him, his heroic sister then intervenes, ramming the leg of a Barbie doll through his eyeball.


Most Absurd Dialogue

After discovering the truth about Glen’s garden porthole in a convenient five minute sequence, bespectacled wiener Terry rushes off to inform his friend of his findings.

Terry: The lyrics in the album tell you how to summon the demons, and there’s this certain time when the constellation’s are aligned, and you can open the gate and let the Old Gods – those are the demons – come through. Well, I checked…and, it’s like, now!

What are the odds!


rtape rtape rtape rtape btape

A well judged special effects romp which excels in its ability to appeal to the PG-13 crowd, The Gate is quite the teenage attraction, with images which are sure to stick in any child’s memory. Perhaps a little tame for a modern adult audience, but kids will no doubt buy into this fantasy-driven tale, while those in their thirties will probably look back with a sense of heady nostalgia.

Cedric Smarts

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8 responses to “The Gate (1987)

  1. I loved this movie growing up. me and my brother would watch it so much we ruined the VHS tape it was on. Such a weird movie, all over the place. But, that’s what made it so creepy. Great read!


    • Thanks, Tig.

      You wore the tape out? Brilliant! I remember doing that with a couple of movies way back when.

      I had only actually watched The Gate once previously. I was around 7 and saw it late at night in a strange house on holiday. I could hardly remember it when I saw it a couple of weeks ago, but that eyeball in the hand always stayed with me.

      Like you say, all over the place, but utterly charming.


  2. Very interesting post! I remember this movie from years ago and I was also surprised by how scary it was for a kids movie. I liked it, though and seeing a very young Stephen Dorff was fun too! I have good memories of this one.


    • Hi, Amanda.

      Always nice to hear from you and get your opinion. I was as surprised as you, and had to change the entire review when I found out it had a PG-13 certificate (in the UK).

      It was also a surprise seeing Stephen Dorff. The guy hasn’t changed a bit – at least in the height department. 🙂

      Thanks for reading!


  3. Yes!!! I love The Gate so much. I just introduced it to my 10 year old, who can’t appreciate the Heavy Metal references like I did when I was his age, but he still loved it.


    • Hey, Drew!

      That’s so cool. I’m glad to see this movie is being passed down the generations. It deserves to be along with some of the better known creature features. I’d be interested to know if he was as terrified as I was when I watched it around his age or whether he just found it silly given the advances in technology.


  4. This didn’t age very well for me, probably because I think it was skewed so young. The sequel is with a watch if you’re cool with horror that feels very nineties. Great review! Love your site as always!


    • Hello there, RR.

      It has dated somewhat. @Drewmaverick showed the movie to his 10 year old son recently and he loved it. I’d be interested to know if he found it scary or whether the movie seems just a little hokey to the current generation.

      Also, I heard about the sequel. I read there were some problems with releasing it due to the poor theatrical reception for the first. They only released it after The Gate’s popularity grew on VHS.

      Thanks for reading. I’m honoured that you dig the site. 🙂


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