Saturday, December 19, 2015

#1,951. The Gate (1987)

Directed By: Tibor Takács

Starring: Stephen Dorff, Christa Denton, Louis Tripp

Tag line: "They're Here and They Want to Meet the Neighbors"

Trivia: The diminutive demonic minions are played by actors in rubber suits who were made to look tiny by being shot in forced perspective

A horror film geared towards young adults, 1987’s The Gate doesn’t feature much along the lines of blood and gore, but its story of backyard demons and hell on earth is, even 25+ years later, enough to give some kids a nightmare or two.

When a large tree topples over in his backyard, Glen (Stephen Dorff) notices smoke rising from the hole it left in the ground, and hears strange noises emanating from it. At first, Glen shrugs it off, but his best friend Terry (Louis Tripp) believes this sudden hole is actually a portal into the underworld, a gate of sorts that, if not closed, will release an ancient demon powerful enough to destroy the world. 

Left in the care of his older sister Alexandra (Christa Denton) when his parents (Scot Denton and Deborah Grover) go out of town, Glen invites Terry to spend the night, and together they try to seal off this "gate". But will they close it in time, or has something already made its way through?

Stephen Dorff, who would later co-star in movies like Blade and The Iceman, was around 13 years old when he made The Gate, and while his performance as Glen is far from his best, he is plenty effective as the young man trying to ensure that an evil God doesn’t wake from its thousand-year slumber. 

The real stars of this film, however, are the special effects, which bring the demons (both small and large) so convincingly to life.  Creepiest of all are the mini-demons, which look like the creatures in the 2010 remake of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. Despite their size, these tiny monsters will give you the willies; when Terry accidentally falls into that backyard hole, these diminutive demons chew on him, and attempt to drag him deeper down. In addition, there's a zombified workman (Carl Kraines) who shows up at key intervals throughout the movie, and is guaranteed to make your skin crawl.

Though it has its slow points (especially in the middle) and suffers a bit in the story department (the “rules” to close the gateway seem arbitrary, and change as the film progresses), the well-realized special effects make The Gate one of the few kids-centric ‘80s horror flicks that works just as well today as when it was first released..

No comments: