The Gate (1987)

AUGUST 24, 2008


Since The Gate was one of those movies that I never quite saw in its entirety when I was a kid, I was determined not to miss any of it at the midnight screening at the New Beverly. Thus I drank an iced coffee, a large coke at the movies beforehand (Tropic Thunder), a regular coffee on the way to the Bev, and then another coke for the movie itself. And still dozed off. I guess caffeine is simply no match for my rampant narcolepsy.

But I saw enough to know that this movie is actually a lot better than you might expect of a PG-13 horror movie aimed at kids. It’s fun, it’s scary, it’s well made and acted, and it features a young Stephen Dorff calling his sister’s would-be boyfriend a “fag” for no real reason. What’s not to love?

It’s essentially a melding of Evil Dead and The Goonies, what with the three kids fighting demons and such that they were pretty much responsible for unleashing in the first place. And even though no one actually dies in the movie, it still has quite a bit of action (more than I expected at any rate); the last half hour or so is pretty much nonstop makeup and running and yelling and effects.

It also has the most brutal dog death in movie history. Not his actual death (he just dies, or is hugged to death by Dorff’s pal, I’m not quite sure), but they just milk it for the entire movie. After he dies Dorff looks at the dog’s dish, filled with food never to be eaten (aww!). Then he looks at photos of the dog (AWWW!) and finally the dog’s corpse is mutilated by the monsters, resulting in an already distraught Dorff seeing the dog’s head thrown about (oh COME ON!). Not since What Dreams May Come have I seen a film so determined to make its audience cry over the death of a pooch. Luckily the dog is resurrected (inexplicably, but welcomely so!) so that’s good.

Speaking of Dorff’s pal, he’s fantastic. He’s like an 80s version of McLovin’, and the highlight of the film has to be when he starts rocking out in his bedroom to the Maiden-esque spoken word intro to a metal song. Then, amazingly, the album has clues to the source of the monsters in Dorff’s backyard! How awesome is that? If I ever come home and some little pint sized monsters are running around, I am totally digging out my copy of "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" and getting some goddamn answers.

Another pretty awesome thing about the movie is that even though the dog and his friends miraculously come back to life unharmed, his house is still totally destroyed (and no, “Frisbee!” won’t explain it). The parents are gone for the weekend, and when they come home, they will find their unscathed children inside a house with no roof and a pit to hell in the middle of the living room. Luckily, it’s the goddamn ugliest house I’ve ever seen in my life, so they can use it as an excuse to move. I hear Cuesta Verde has some open houses.

Director Tibor Tak√°cs and screenwriter Michael Nankin showed up for a Q&A, which was pretty interesting. The best bit was when they discussed how the studio was afraid that a PG-13 horror movie wouldn’t be marketable! Indeed, I remember even when I was a kid, part of why I never really went out of my way to see it (I saw the end like five times) was that I figured since it wasn’t R, it would be lame. Such is life when you’re 8 years old and have already gotten to see Texas Chain Saw Massacre and most of the Friday the 13ths.

Horror fans would be sort of happy to know that the boring woman from Candyman 2, Kelly Rowan, plays one of Dorff’s sister’s friends in this. Since the demon needs the oddly small number of two sacrifices, I thought she (and the other friend) would be a goner for sure, but they just sort of leave the house at the end of the second act. Bummer.

The DVD is out of print, and it sucked to begin with (full frame transfer), and I'm pretty sure the sequel, which focuses on Dorff’s nerdy pal, doesn't even have that much. And that is a damn shame, but hopefully unlike me you were smart enough to watch it back in the day. I will never doubt a PG-13 horror movie again!!

What say you?


  1. I LOVE birds :))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

  2. YAY!
    own and love BOTH of The Gate movies!

    great stuff man!

  3. part 2..if you havent seen it.
    is actually a really fun movie!

    a few scenes cracked me up laughing and the stuff that happens is quite fun. I love all the evil touches they add to this movie, for it being directed towards kids. I never have wanted to do a seance more than i did after watching these movies!

  4. i like iced coffee also. never seen this before, but you should review "The Goonies" for HMAD. That would be considered somewhat horror, I assume.

  5. This movie was fun. It was one of the standard KTLA (channel 5) movies for me growing up. Before last week, I could never remember the title of it, but would always remember the hand-eye gouging finale.

    The ending felt a little too flat happy though,a bit too buddy buddy or dare I say gay. It needed one more scare or maybe a mini demon peaking out from somewhere. It felt like Nightmare on Elm St without the Freddy mobile and the mom getting pulled through the mini door window.

    As for the destroyed home, I'm sure they used the profits from the selling of their illustrious demon geodes to help cover the cost of the reconstruction... or at the very least that one broken window...

  6. The Gate was awesome! I was lucky to have my Dad tape it off the movie station WAAAY back in the day. So I am assuming I have an original version.
    I thought Gate 2 was pretty lame though in comparison.
    I also thought it was a cheap way out having everyone suddenly come back to life. Otherwise I thought and still think this is a fun movie.

  7. I saw this one in the theater back in the day--actually, embarrassingly, it was the movie to which I took my First Date Evar. My parents dropped us off and picked us up. She rebuffed my hand-holding attempts with extreme prejudice. The ride back home was tense, esp. since my Mom couldn't stop asking "How did it go?"

    ANYway, I remember that this movie was totally and COMPLETELY spoiled by the trailers and TV spots for it, to a degree that would be considered egregious even today. The little monsters (which are kept in shadow during the film's runtime to build suspense), the big mofo demon at the end, and even the Dances With Dog sequence were all shown in full light in the trailer, draining the flick of the its surprise and discovery one which its success depends, imo. Hell, even "YOU'VE BEEN BAAAAAAAD!" was in the trailer.

    In short, I wish I'd seen it without seeing the TV spots, as I'm sure I'd have enjoyed it a lot more. Oh, and I wish I'd taken an easier date to see it. I mean hell, I bought POPCORN. ;)

  8. this happened to be on sho time today. It rules. that's all I have to say about that.

  9. BEST. REVIEW. EVER. I can't even tell you how happy I am that someone else has actually seen this movie! I STILL have nightmares about dead bodies living in the walls of my house. Top off one of the best movies of my childhood with probably the funniest review I've read yet... well let's just say it made my night.

  10. I as most of you had seen this movie many years ago when i was about 10. i soo love this film and i totally warn the vhs out that my dad recored am so gutted :( maybe oneday it will be on tv again :)


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