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 Takács 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?