Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Gate (CANADA. 1987)


THE GATE scared me years ago when I had seen it on television as a child. My mind was filled with visions of non-stop mayhem, crazy stop motion meanies and a surprisingly large body count.

Would a re-watch yield crushing disappointment?

The story just one of those "A boy (Stephen Dorff!), his best friend and his sister find a hole to Hell in their backyard" plot. To my surprise, it took a long time to get to the mayhem. Lots of build up, little scares and unease before the stop motion shenanigans (of amazing quality for its type) make an appearance. Still, when the shit really does it the fan, there's enough surreal visual inventiveness to make it a watch worthwhile. And it's all played straight. No one winks at the camera here: The demons actually want to kill these kids. THE GATE is part of an extinct breed of film that featured child protagonists in actual danger. It dosen't pull any punches when it comes to shock, from faces melting off to stabbing a child in the eye socket with a barbie dolls. Sadly, some really dark turns in the last act are disappointingly spoiled by a "DON'T WORRY. EVERYTHING IS FINE" ending. Director Tibor Tak√°cs keeps things chugging along by moving the camera around, but never outright showing off. There's a reason the man works mostly in television now.

If things were sped up in the beginning, this could have been a classic. As it stands, it's a very solid child in peril horror film.

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