Over the weekend, I had the chance to watch THE GATE, what many would consider an 80’s classic in the horror movie genre, for the first time. The film centers around two boys who accidentally open the gates to hell, releasing demons that wreck havoc and threaten to take over Earth. THE GATE stars a SUPER young Stephen Dorff along with Christa Denton, Louis Tripp, and Kelly Rowan and is directed by Tibor Takacs. If there is one thing that this movie showed me, it’s that 80’s kids definitely had all the fun.
What I loved about this film was a combination of the storyline, acting, and practical effects. The story itself is solid from beginning to end and comes full circle which I appreciated. Being a fan of films that have to do with Heaven or Hell, I was instantly sucked into what was unfolding on the screen. The story starts with two kids, Glen and Terry, who find a large geode under a tree that was recently cut down. Being the kids they are, they decide to break open the geode and recite the incantations found nearby. From this point on, as the saying goes, all hell breaks loose, and the kids must find a way to stop the hellish demons from taking over their house, their family, and the world.
As far as the acting is concerned, I was incredibly impressed by the performances by Stephen Dorff (in his first acting role) as Glen and Louis Tripp as Terry. Both of them worked together seamlessly and I couldn’t help but root for them to succeed in battling the demons to bloody pulps. Their child-like quality really lent itself to the film in making their reactions believable because, well, they are kids. Their emotions and actions seemed genuine and it almost was like they weren’t even acting at all; it’s as if the viewers were privy to what was happening to them in real life. None of their acting seemed forced or overdone which resulted in a viewing experience that was much more enjoyable.
My favorite part of THE GATE had to be the practical effects. It was probably some of the best I’ve seen in quite some time and it instantly captivated me. There’s something to be said about films from the 80’s, about how they are made, and the creativity that goes into them - they have a certain touch can’t be emulated now-a-days and this film is a perfect example of that. I was curious as to how the little demonic creatures were made, if they were done in claymation, but I came to find out that it was actually men dressed in costume and made to look small through forced perspective! One of my favorite scenes had to do with someone’s eyes getting pushed out of their skull which I thought was done brilliantly as well as another scene that had an eyeball in the palm of Glen’s hand. Both scenes didn’t have that annoying CGI quality to them which made me respect the process that the designers and makeup artists must have gone through to achieve both looks. I also liked the use of color throughout the film, especially when they uncover the gate and a bright purple glow emanates through. Since this film was remastered, it was visibly noticeable how much the colors came to life throughout the duration of the movie.
Speaking of eyes popping out, the gore was pretty fantastic in this film. It was that perfect balance of over-the-top ridiculousness and grotesque. Usually not one for the excessive gore, I think that it played well with the overall story of the film and added to the horror that the kids and their friends were dealing with. When it came to kills, I can’t really say that anyone technically dies, but there are moments where they are momentarily perceived as dead. The small demons that were running around amok were the main death dealers but there were a few surprises I didn’t see coming. One in particular made me question if there could be a dead body in any of my walls at my home. And of course no horror movie is complete without the daddy of monsters making an appearance and boy did he ever. Overall, the creature designs were done incredibly well and were emphasized perfectly with the addition of detailed practical effects and an amusing amount of gore.
All in all, I’m so happy I got the chance to watch THE GATE. Having been restored and remastered, the picture quality was above exceptional and as I noted above, made all the colors pop. The same can be said for the audio, which was clear and precise and didn’t require me to keep turning up or down the volume when certain scenes played out. Also included in the Blu-ray release are Audio Commentaries from Director Tibor Takacs, Writer Michael Nankin and Special Effects Designer & Supervisor Randall William Cook as well as Featurettes that include the “Making of THE GATE”. If you are a fan of 80’s horror films that are capable of standing the test of time and have some of the best practical effects that I have seen, then THE GATE is definitely for you.
THE GATE is now available as part of The Vestron Video Collector’s Series on limited-edition Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment