Retro-review: Available on DVD/BluRay/digital download; help me out and pick it up on DVD/BluRay here on Amazon!
THE GATE (1987)
Directed by Tibor Takács
Written by Michael Nankin
Starring Stephen Dorff, Christa Denton, Louis Tripp, Kelly Rowan, Jennifer Irwin, Deborah Grover, Scot Denton, Ingrid Veninger, Sean Fagan, Linda Goranson, Andrew Gunn, & Carl Kraines as the Workman!
Long before he tried to ice-skate uphill and puffed on E-Cigarettes, little Stevie Dorff battled interdimensional demons in THE GATE and it was one of my most favorite films as a kid. I was right around the same age as Dorff when this film came out (I guess, that makes me about the same age as him now, which is weird to me). And to me, more than EXPLORERS and GOONIES, this film exemplified my life to a tee as a kid in the 80’s. So while this review will most likely be bukkake-ed with nostalgia, bear with me, I will try to give this one a critical look as well.
Dorff plays Glen, a starry eyed young boy who loves launching model rockets and playing with his older sister Al (Christa Denton) and his buddy Terry (Louis Tripp). But his sis is starting to get older and notice boys, so she doesn’t have time to play with Glen and Terry recently lost his mother to Cancer, so times are a little tough. When a tree is uprooted in a storm, a giant hole in the ground appears and Terry and Glen believe it is the portal to hell, just like the portal to hell described in Terry’s metal albums. The thing is, a series of events occur that actually does open a portal to Hell and all sorts of demons, monsters, and spooky happenings start seeping out and terrorizing Glen, Terry, and Al when their parents go out of town for the weekend.
With THE GATE, Tibor Takács was able to harness my own, and most likely a lot of readers’, childhood as a kid growing up in the 80’s and loving horror. The film takes all of the conventions. The make believe games kids play. The “Light as a Feather” levitation spells at sleepovers. The metal albums with faux devil lyrics. All of these things that, as a kid, I thought was cool is checked off as if Takács was going down a to do list. The film really does hold a childish sense of fun that definitely strums the chords of nostalgia, but also offers up a childish energy and glee that is rarely captured in films.
After establishing this feel through this lens, Takács unleashes a gauntlet of horrors that aren’t necessarily bloody (though there are a few gory bits such as Demon Terry getting stabbed in the eye with a screwdriver and Glen stabbing his own hand with a shard of glass), but definitely disturbing. From the stop motion big bad, to miniaturized Minions in monster suits, to foam hands reaching out from under the bed, to the zombie Workman crashing through walls, Takács unloads more monsters in this film than ten other monster movies. The fun is that he puts them in plain view and at a rapid pace. So while this film starts slow with a little boyhood angst about losing his favorite pet, by the forty minute mark, the pace speeds up to a sprint and never really stops until the end.
While some of the humor is dated and the pace is a bit off in the first half hour or so, THE GATE makes up for it with it’s bombastic final half. If you were a kid of the eighties you know about THE GATE and most likely loved it like it did. Having rewatched it, parts haven’t aged well, but that childish glee Takács harnesses in this film is unprecedented and still holds up rather well. This is a fun horror film that you could show your kids and while some part may still induce a night terror or two, they’ll most likely love the hell out of it. This is one of those time-machine movies that instantly takes be back to a simpler age and I love THE GATE for having that kind of power.
This presentation of THE GATE on BluRay from Vestron Video Classics includes; an audio commentary by director Tibor Takacs, writer Michael Nankin, and effects designer Randall William Cook, there’s another audio commentary with Cook, and other special effects artists Craig Reardon, Frank Carere, and matte photographer Bill Taylor, an interview with composers Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson, a featurette entitled “The Gate Unlocked” featuring Takacs and Cook, “Minion Maker” talks with effects man Craig Reardon, “From Hell It Came” interviews co-producer Andras Hamori, “The Workman Speaks!” talks with Workman actor Carl Kraines, “Made in Canada” chats with cast and crew about the experience of making the film up North, another effects featurette called “From Hell: The Creatures & Demons of The Gate” talks with Cook and Reardon again, one more featurette “The Gatekeepers” talks with Takacs and Nankin again, there’s a vintage Making of featurette, teaser, theatrical, and TV trailers, and all kinds of stills to be seen in this everything but the kitchen sink collection of all things THE GATE!