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  Gate, The Portal Of Doom
Year: 1987
Director: Tibor Takács
Stars: Stephen Dorff, Christa Denton, Louis Tripp, Kelly Rowan, Jennifer Irwin, Deborah Grover, Scott Denton, Ingrid Veninger, Sean Fagan, Linda Goranson, Carl Kraines, Andrew Gunn
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Glen (Stephen Dorff) cycles home one afternoon, but when he walks through the front door he senses there is something wrong. Although he looks around, upstairs and downstairs, none of his family are in the house, so where could they be? Suddenly, he hears the sound of the television but when he goes through to investigate, there is still no sign of life. In the kitchen, a meal has been left unfinished on the table and the back door is open through which Glen can see the old, dead tree in the yard. As he climbs it into the tree house, lightning strikes it and the tree collapses taking Glen with it...

Ah, don't worry, it's all a dream, but an apt introduction to a film which in its cheesy manner blurs the line between fantasy and reality. This ambitious yet softhearted horror was a Canadian production scripted by Michael Nankin (who co-wrote another eighties cult, Midnight Madness), and could best be described as Poltergiest for kids. Certainly it's they who would fall for its imaginative shocks, but the more seasoned horror movie fan could appreciate The Gate too, chiefly for its superb effects work. It may take a while to reach the best examples, but it was worth the wait.

Cleverly, Nankin's script approached its terrors on a level that shildren could relate to, with its use of myths which hinge upon stories that sound like urban legends. Judas Priest might not find much to enjoy about the old tale of the records played backwards uncovering a Satanic message, but it's implemented here to amusing effect as Glen's best friend Terry (Louis Tripp) stands in for our man to go to for the plot exposition, such as it is. Poor Terry may have lost his mother recently, but this means he has thrown himself into a love of heavy metal, specifically a band who have a backstory to them.

In true urban legend style, the band were supposed to have been indulging in Devil worship while making their only album, and they died in a plane crash soon after its completion (but of course). However, the film does not labour the metal equals Satanism angle, as where the old tree in Glen's yard used to be is now a big hole. It'll be filled in presently, but until it is Glen's parents are away for the weekend, leaving him in the charge of his soon-to-be sixteen-year-old sister Alexandra (Christa Denton), who much to her displeasure he calls Al. Of course the real nightmare of parents being away is if they return to find their home a tip, and that's what is realised here.

For some reason which remains unexplained, the hole in the yard is actually the gate (hence the title) to Hell, which makes the whole house a portal between the real world and the world of the Old Gods, i.e. demons. If this sounds hopelessly hackneyed, then perhaps it is, but director Tibor Takács shows a keen sense of special effects. These include a host of little demons, superbly animated, and a made up story of a workman walled up in the house who breaks out to menace the teens - the shot where he topples to the floor only to shatter into lots of the little demons is truly great. Along with that is a great big demon who rises up through the hallway and the memorable image of an eye in Glen's hand that it afflicts the boy with, just one of numerous weird but inspired bits of business. The Gate has too much heart to kill anyone off, but it's nicely put together neveretheless. Music by Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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