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.
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 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.
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!
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.