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Gate II (1990)

Shout! Factory
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/27/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/9/2018

The video stores of the 80s and 90s were a crazy place where many different kinds of movies came to roost, and frequent visitors to these VHS havens became accustomed to seeing many usual suspects on the shelves. One such sub-genre was the direct-to-video sequel. Sometimes a movie would be a theatrical success (note that I didn't say "hit"), but the inevitable follow-up would by-pass a theatrical release and go directly to the video store. (Although, some of these movies would play briefly in New York or Los Angeles.) So, it wasn't surprising to suddenly see a title which a numeral behind it suddenly appear for rental. In some cases, these follow-ups were only slightly more obscure than their predecessors, such as Gate II.

Gate II takes place two years after the events seen in The Gate, where demons invaded a suburban house and nearly destroyed it. Terry (Louis Tripp), who witnessed the destruction (and was instrumental in causing some of it), has spent this time thinking about what went wrong. He decides to try summoning the demons again, as he's sure that he can get them to do his bidding this time. He wants their assistance to fix his life, specifically his depressed, alcoholic father. So, he sneaks into the abandoned house and while he's performing the rites, he accosted by a gang of toughs -- John (James Villemaire), Moe (Simon Reynolds), and Liz (Pamela Segall). Terry convinces this gang to help him and they are able to summon a small demon who Terry calls a "minion". Terry takes the minion home and realizes that it can grant wishes. However, as with most wishes, these come at a price. As Terry and Liz begin to bond over this odd discovery, John and Moe fall prey to a thirst for power.

1987's The Gate was an oddity that blended the "kids go on adventure" sub-genre with the 80s fascination with satanic heavy metal and presented it in a way that was fun, without ever being truly scary. (Although there were some moments which bordered on creepy and who can forget the not very PC dialogue.) The film was apparently a minor hit (I saw it in the theater), so a sequel was put into motion.

However, with Gate II, we get an example of the misguided sequel. The star of the first film, Stephen Dorff, was apparently not available, so we get the sidekick from the first movie as the star of the sequel. The problem here is that Terry is an incredibly unappealing character and, if you'll remember, wasn't an innocent bystander in the first movie. This second fiddle is then placed into a wafer thin story, which is sort of a retelling of the first movie, but on a much smaller scale. (Whereas The Gate was crawling with demons, we only get a few here.) While The Gate had some annoying side-characters, Gate II makes the classic mistake of introducing human villains in addition to the supernatural threat. There is also a serious, emotional undercurrent to the movie, which really doesn't blend well with everything else.

These various elements most likely make Gate II sound like a mess, and, in some ways, the movie is. But, in reality, the movie is really too benign to truly be a catastrophe. Tibor Takacs, who successfully helmed the first movie, returns for the sequels, but, from the outset, he gives it a very slack pace. Things just sort of happen and there is never a sense of urgency. Instead of something which feels like a complete story, we get a series of scenes which feel like vignettes and they don't always flow together well or make sense, especially the third act. It's clear that the movie was hampered by a thin screenplay and the budget, since, as noted above, we don't get anywhere near the amount of action seen in The Gate. In short, Gate II is just plain boring.

Video store denizens of a bygone age quickly learned that they were playing with fire when renting a sequel which suddenly appeared on the shelves. But, there was always that glimmer of hope that the follow up would hold the first charms as its predecessor. Perhaps Gate II looked like a good idea on paper, but the result is a movie which feels like a cheap copy of the first movie (and that movie wasn't all that great to begin with). Hampered by unlikable characters and a lack of demons, Gate II is now only memorable for an early performance by Pamela Segall, who would go on to be known as Pamela Adlon.

Gate II never explains where Terry got all of that equipment, especially the lasers, on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Shout! Factory. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a trace amount of grain and very, very minor defects from the source materials. The colors look good, most notably the blues and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is good, but the image is a bit soft at times. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio stereo track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track delivers obvious stereo effects, mostly notable through the film's score. The music does not drown out the actors and the track is well-balanced.

The Gate II Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. "Return to the Nightmare" (27 minutes) is a retrospective making-of featurette which contains a modern-day conversation with Director Tibor Takacs, Screenwriter Michael Nankin, and Special Visual Effects Creator Randall William Cook. This trio has an in-depth conversation about the decision to make a sequel and what went into the production. This is accented by clips from the film and a few behind-the-scenes stills. "From the Depths" (15 minutes) is an interviews with Special Make-up Effects Creator Craig Reardon who discusses the building of the demons for the film. The Disc contains a TRAILER for the film, a "Video Promo" (advertisement for video stores), a "Video Store Contest Promo" (which has a hilarious disclaimer), and a "Still Gallery".

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long