Friday, October 24, 2014

Review: The Gate (1987)

Kids want what we tell them they can't have. It's a simple fact of life. When you're a kid, you desperately want the things that you're told are only for the adults. You find that there is a strange fascination with these things. One of the things gets often get told they're not allowed to partake of is horror films. Many parents look at the medium as offensive, gory, and too violent for the younger members of society. I got lucky, as I grew up in a house with parents who knew what I could handle and let me generally watch what I wanted. This means I got a lot of horror movies in my childhood diet. And one movie I will never forget is The Gate.

For fairly obvious reasons.

How does one explain the effect of The Gate? Well, let's start off with the fact that it actually has a reputation for being a horror film many kids actually are allowed to see, as it is deemed more friendly. Why? I have no idea, honestly, as it is a genuinely creepy film with some really intense imagery. If anything I'd expect this to be one that parents would want to keep away from their kids because it directly pertains to a child being terrorized by literal demons. But, because of its reputation, many of us have seen it regardless of our parents' stance on the genre. It's the little cult horror film that keeps getting revisited. It even got a sequel.

We're not going to wander down that road just yet though.
As such, I wanted to go over this movie and really explore why so many people love it. Without further ado, let's start the show. The film begins with our lead, a young boy name Glen (played by Stephen Dorff long before he started advertising e-cigs), as he finds his house abandoned and generally isn't comfortable with the whole vibe going down. There's half-eaten food in the kitchen, creepy laughter, and a baby doll is calling for help in his rickety old treehouse outside. Because he's more curious than smart, he climbs up into the treehouse and lightning strikes, splitting the tree in half and he awakes in bed from what was clearly a nightmare. Outside they're pulling up what is left of the tree, as it seems it actually did get struck and he merely dreamt of it. He finds a broken geode that came from the hole under the tree and shows it to his friend, Terry.

Yeaaah, clearly Terry is an expert on geodes.

They dig up the now filled in hole as Terry wants to find a bigger one for them to sell. They do find one, but Glenn gets a wound from a splinter (causing him to bleed into the hole),  and they bring the geode back inside. Glen's parents take off for a trip, leaving his sister Alexandra in charge, and the boys break the geode open releasing a gas of some sort that leaves writing on their notepad. At this point, I would burn the notepad and bury the geode back in the hole, because words don't just appear like that normally so some bad shit is clearly going down. But, I have common sense and our young boys here do not, as they read aloud the words. Greeeaaaat. Meanwhile, while they're engaging in stupidity upstairs, the sister is engaging in some of her own downstairs as she's throwing a party.

It must me Mexican themed, as these girls have guacamole on their faces.

The boys go downstairs and Glen gets rooted into a levitation party game that actually works a bit too well, resulting in a light being broken and him being more than a little freaked out. More weird shit happens and Terry sleepwalks downstairs where he thinks he's embracing his dead mother but instead is hugging Glen's dog, Angus, who is now dead. Alexandra is an awesome babysitter, yes? The next day Terry brings his favourite metal album over as he speculates that they accidentally opened a portal to a place not unlike Hell, because the album is actually based on an ancient text called The Dark Book and it talks about these sorts of things. See? Heavy metal can protect you from demons. Take that, religious right!

Tell me again how your book full of rape, murder, sexism, and incest is supposed to save us?

He thinks he can seal the hole back up, because it still needs a sacrifice deposited into it. What he doesn't know is that Alexandra's idiot boyfriend actually put the dead dog into the hole. Lovely. Now thinking they've closed the now vanished hole,  they continue on about their business until a bunch of moths shatter Glen's window and Angus' dead body shows up in Terry's bed. That can't be a good sign. This is followed by large demon arms trying to drag Alexandra under the bed, which they escape and they all (her annoying two twin friends included) run downstairs where their parents show up...just in time for dad's face to cave in. Some more bad juju happens, such as the phone catching on fire after telling them they've been bad and about 30 or so small demons running after the sister. Terry tries to get the book to dispel the demons, but it also joins the phone in flaming death, so they decide to just read from the bible instead. Terry almost gets taken by the hole and gives up on reading, instead opting to simply throw religion at their problem like a holy hand grenade.

I guess Monty Python really knew how to handle religious artifacts best.

It seems to have worked, so they let their guard down and the annoying sisters leave with the idiot boyfriend. But, hey, surprise, the demons are still hanging about and they've taken on the form of a dead workman inside Glen's wall. The workman drags Terry off into the wall and also does the same to Alexandra shortly after. This leaves young Glen on his own as a giant demon comes out of a massive hole in the center of the house, because his sister and best friend are just the sacrifices needed to let this bad boy out. He also grows and eye in his hand, which he promptly stabs. I can understand why too, because no one wants to see things through their hand. Imagine wiping your ass with it? Euuuugh. He goes after the large rocket his sister gave him, as he realizes that it is a symbol of love, he fires it at the big nasty bastard, it blows up, and Angus, Terry, and Alexandra all come back where I can only assume they immediately began brainstorming excuses as to why the house looks like it was nuked.

Damn demons never clean up after themselves.

Now, is it a good movie? Yes, yes it is. It's go great creature designs that are menacing, regardless of size. It has tension that builds progressively throughout, leaving the viewer wondering if it's ever really over. The acts all play their parts reasonably well, often feeling like scared kids. And the story is rather unique, being that this sort of thing hadn't really been explored much at the time. It'd be easy to look at The Gate and try to lump it in with other films, but if you really look at it there's not many categories it can fit into easily. Sure, it has little monsters, but nothing like the Gremlins or Critters. Yeah, it has demons, but these aren't Angela's party monsters. No, I personally feel like this film stands alone in the world of horror.

Much like you do if you ever fall down a demon filled hole.

Should you show it to your kids? Well, in my honest opinion? Yes. Kids already imagine things that are horrible and frightening, with or without the help of a movie. Letting them see a movie like this that shows one kid facing his fears and standing up to them, that can help a kid out a lot. We can't protect them from the world, it will get to them one way or the other. But, you can help them prepare for things and treat them with a modicum of respect by letting them see things like this and make their own call. Settle down with your family this Halloween and check out The Gate. So, until Stephen Dorff makes The Gate III, I'll be here filling up any strange holes that may open up in my backyard. Later days, bleeders.

Cheese it, boys! Review's over!

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