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Title: The Gate

Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :3stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :4.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:72

Children in horror movies is nothing new. In fact, some of my favorite horror movies usually revolve around teen or pre-teen youngsters saving the day from unspeakable evil. The 80s (my favorite decade for horror films) are fantastic examples of employing this age level for their heroes and “The Gate” is one of those “blasts from the past” that I had completely forgotten about until I saw the press release. While the plot is a bit sketchy (even for a horror movie), it stars a young Stephen Dorff before he was the villain in “Blade” (and I mean YOUNG Stephen Dorff), and has a sort of “Goonies” meets “Gremlins” vibe that is loads of fun. One of the biggest boons for this release is how Lionsgate’s “Vestron Video” lineup of films is trying to follow Scream Factory’s lead in giving us a TON of special features on the disc, and this one is one of their best in that regards.

“The Gate” epitomizes the stupidity of the 80s kid to a T. Much of the movie is like any movie, had they just acted logically and communicated none of this mess would have gone down. What happens is that young Glen (Stephen Dorff) is your average pre-teen kid who’s living in American suburbia. After a giant tree is torn up and uprooted from his back yard, he and buddy Terry (Louis Tripp) decide to go digging around in the leftover hole. There they find a giant geode, and through an unfortunately (but unintentional) chain of events the boys accidentally open up a portal to the demonic real which just so happens to be underneath the tree stump.

To make matters worse, this all goes down while Glenn and his sister Alexandria’s (Christa Denton) parents have left for the weekend. While Alexandria (Al) and her derpy teenage friends are partying it up against their parents’ wishes, Glenn and Terry are busy trying to figure out a way to get the demonic portal closed before mom and dad get home from their trip. That is until the demonic monsters push their way into the house and start pulling people underground for human sacrifices (which sadly are only intimated at) so that their most powerful monsters can come forth and wreak havoc on the earth.

“The Gate” is a bit of a mishmash of different horror tropes, ranging from the classic children left alone, accidentally summoning monster from hell (seriously, people need to take care of their evil spells better), and ancient demons that can be dispelled with surprisingly little effort for creatures who were have supposed to have ruled the world for thousands of years in the past. Stupidity reigns supreme as the boys decide to try and take care of the demons THEMSELVES instead of actually brining in outside help, and there is actually a moment during the 2nd act that could have ONLY happened in the 80s. Back in the late 80s and early 90s amongst the Christian based denominations there was this huge “threat” of heavy metal bands incorporating “magic spells” and hidden messages in their tracks. We were all warned about the evils of heavy metal as a result and they use that same trope here, with Terry learning about the spell from a heavy metal album he’s listening to, and even playing it backwards to get the spell to reverse the demonic influence (it’s so 1980’s bad that it’s priceless, especially if you grew up with that old myth of hidden messages when playing a record backwards).

One of the big benefits of “The Gate” is the abject enthusiasm for the creators. The film was shot on a shoestring budget (really I think a shoe string would look at the budget as a bit skimpy for its tastes), but if you listen to the commentary it becomes obvious that this was a passion project for all those involved. The special effects may seem quant today, but they put their heart and soul into making the cheapo film look as cool as it actually does. Matte paintings, CGI, and animatronics all make their way into the film and it looks surprisingly good as a result. The acting can be a bit spotty, but that’s one of the charms of 80s horror flicks. Bad acting, bad direction, more cheese than a Mexican restaurant, and plenty of good old fashioned fun. The one thing that really surprises me is the rating. The 80s was the generation of excess and heavy R ratings, but for some reason the movie tends to be a bit tamer than expected with a PG-13 rating.


Rated PG-13 by the MPAA

Video :3stars:
“The Gate” comes to Blu-ray with a rather varying quality AVC encode in 1.85:1. Vestron Video has the privilege of having some of the more “fun” horror niche films that I’ve seen recently, but they also have some print and master issues that pop up here and there. I can’t be 100% certain, of course, but this one looks like Lionsgate is using the same master that was used for their 2009 DVD as the shifting quality seems fairly similar. The color saturation is impressive, but there is some haze and film grain thickening that comes and goes throughout the film. There’s a few bits where smoke and dust are used to glaze over the image, but the contrast seems to be boosted a bit and the gamma off just slightly so that we can see a sort of “gauzy” look to the image at times. Some of the brightly lit scenes show off really impressive detail, and there is enough “pop” to the image to warrant a solid thumbs-up. Darker and more dimly lit sequences displaying varying degrees of grain levels and sometimes look a bit washed out in the black level department. A serviceable but rather flawed transfer from Lionsgate, “The Gate” still looks the best it ever has.

Audio :4stars:
Besides a music only track, “The Gate” sports a very healthy sounding 2.0 DTS-HD MA track that revels in the goofy sounds and heavily synthesized scoring methods of 80s horror. The dialog is strong and well replicated in the 2 front speakers, and I never heard any distortions or other age related recording flaws in the track. There’s some really cool little pittering and scratchy rasping coming from the little demons that come out of the woodworks near the end, and the score has a decidedly brash sound to it, but the LFE tends to be a bit neutered (which is kind of natural for a 2.0 track on shoestring budget film). While it’s not a wildly IMMERSIVE track form a modern mixing point of view, the track is well preserved and sounds extremely faithful to the genre and time period.

Extras :4.5stars:

• Audio Commentary With Director Tibor Takacs, Writer Michael Nankin, and Special Effects Designer & Supervisor Randall William Cook
• Audio Commentary With Special Effects Designer & Supervisor Randall William Cook, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Craig Reardon, Special Effects Artist Frank Carere, and Matte Photographer Bill Taylor
• Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composers Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson
• Featurettes:
- "The Gate: Unlocked"
- "Minion Maker"
- "From Hell It Came"
- "The Workman Speaks!"
- "Made in Canada"
- "From Hell: The Creatures & Demons of The Gate"
-"The Gatekeepers"
- "Making of The Gate"
• Original Teaser Trailer
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• TV Spot
• Storyboard Gallery
• Behind-the-Scenes Still Gallery

Overall: :3.5stars:

“The Gate” is goofy and wildly kinetic horror experience from my favorite decade of horror filming. It has a weird “Goonies” meets “Gremlins” vibe, and stars an almost unrecognizably young Stephen Dorff as the main star (or at least one of the three main stars). The storyline is a bit disjointed and all over the place, but there’s a lot of very enthusiastic people behind the product (especially if you listen to the amazing array of special features) and the corny (and rathe dated) special effects make for a hilariously good time. The Blu-ray itself looks pretty decent, although nothing wild, and sounds great. But the real fun is in the massive setup of extras that Lionsgate has put on the disc, which makes the disc go up from a “check it out” to a “definitely check it out” rating.

Additional Information:

Starring: Stepehn Dorff, Christa Denton, Louis Tripp
Directed by: Tibor Takács
Written by: Michael Nankin
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0, Music DD 2.0
Studio: Lionsgate
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 86 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 21st, 2017

Buy The Gate On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Definitely Check it Out.

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