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The Gate (1987)

Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/28/2017

All Ratings out of





Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/15/2017

When Stranger Things premiered last year, two things happened. First, people fell over themselves to praise it (I thought it was good, but not great), and secondly, everyone wanted to point out the 80s pop-culture references which influenced the show. It was very easy to recognize the way in which the series incorporated ideas from Stephen King and Steven Spielberg, along with a distinct vibe from John Carpenter, most notably in the music. However, it was obvious that the Duffer Brothers, who reportedly loved to scour video stores when they were younger, had pulled ideas from other places as well. I wasn't far into 1987's The Gate when I thought that it has influenced the hit show as well.

As The Gate opens, lightning strikes a tree in young Glen's (Stephen Dorff) backyard, and the removal of the tree leaves a hole in the ground. Glen and his best friend, Terry (Louis Tripp), investigate hole and find some geodes inside. But, it's not until Glen is left home alone with his sister, Al (Christa Denton), that the strange things begin to occur. Glen levitates in front of Al's friends. Terry sees his deceased mother. The hole, which had been filled in, re-opens. Terry, using heavy metal records as research, becomes convinced that demons have emerged from the hole. Glen and Al are skeptical, but as night falls, it becomes very clear that everyone is in danger and a way to close the hole must be found.

We may think that we see plenty of weird movies today, but things got plenty wacky in the 80s and The Gate is a prime example. The movie plays like a bizarre mixture of Poltergeist, The Goonies, and Hellraiser, as it presents us with a notably unbalanced mixture of tones. The characters, even those who are supposed to be mean, come across as decidedly wholesome when compared to their counterparts in similar movies. Glen is just a nice science nerd. Terry is supposed to be an angry metalhead, but he's just a scrawny kid who looks like Fregley from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies. Having seen other movies, we expect Al to be a complete bitch and fight with Glen...but she's helpful and supportive. The finale teaches us that love and science can triumph over evil. The Gate represents the epitome of PG-13 family fun.

Now, contrast this with the true horror movie elements of The Gate. We get dead pet neglect, eye-gouging, demon-bites, melting faces, and a zombie. This is complimented by demon-resurrection rites and some non-PC dialogue which really, really would not fly today. (I watched this with my teenaged daughters and they were far more shocked by some of the homophobic slurs than the film's violence.) The movie certainly gets violent at times, and while I wouldn't venture to say that it's scary, it does have some creepy moments and some scenes where you'll be convinced that it's not going to go there...but it does. The Gate is the epitome of how no one knew exactly how to treat the PG-13 rating in 1987.

The overall result here is that The Gate is a great example of the kind of movie which understands that young people want to see envelopes pushed. The movie plays like a visual representation of a Goosebumps books while going just a bit further at times. The movie deserves kudos for hitting the ground running, as the story gets off to a start just as the credits finish. It maintains this pace up until the third act, where it oddly slows down. The film also earns points for being willing to try so many different things. There was a point where I was convinced that The Gate was more about having ideas than anything else, as we get so many plot elements. Sure, the special effects are very, very dated (the stop-motion demons are quaint, but they just don't work today) and the whole heavy metal angle may seem alien to younger viewers (although Terry had some sweet Iron Maiden posters), but there's no denying that the movie has pluck and it still charming in many ways. I think that my favorite thing about The Gate (besides Glen's unique insults) is the fact that it ends on a decidedly happy note. If the film was made today, it would have had some sort of cynical downbeat note at the end, which has simply become cliched. The Gate is far form being the best horror movie of the late 80s, but it definitely shows how times have changed.

The Gate gets props for promoting Killer Dwarfs on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 24 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only mild grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, as the tones here are unusually bright for a horror movie. The picture is never overly dark or bright. The depth is nice, which is a plus, as movies from this era can easily look flat. The level of detail is good, but not great. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.1 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We get some mild stereo effects here, mostly during the finale when things are happening all over the house. The score never drowns out the actors.

The Gate Blu-ray Disc contains a surprising assortment of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Tibor Takacs, Writer Michael Nankin, and Special Effects Designer & Supervisor Randall William Cook. This is followed by a second COMMENTARY with Cook, Special Make-up Effects Artist Craig Reardon, Special Effects Artist Frank Carere, and Matte Photographer Bill Taylor. An additional audio track offers an Isolated Score and Audio Interview with Composers Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson. "The Gate: Unlocked" (28 minutes) is a conversation with Takacs and Cook who reminisce about the production and their approach to the material, especially given the budget and schedule. "Minion Maker" (23 minutes) is an interview with Reardon who discusses his work on creating the little demons and includes some behind-the-scenes stills. "From Hell It Came" (13 minutes) is an interview with Co-Producer Andras Hamori, in which he talks about getting the movie off the ground. "The Workman Speaks!" (12 minutes) is just plain weird, as it offers a chat with Carl Kraines, the zombie in the film. "Made in Canada" (28 minutes) is a series of modern-day interviews with people from Toronto who worked on the film. "From Hell: The Creatures & Demons of The Gate" (15 minutes) looks at the stop-motion and make-up effects which went into making the film's monsters. "The Gatekeepers" (16 minutes) has Takacs and Nankin talking about the creation of the story and its journey to the screen. "Making of The Gate" (23 minutes) is an archival piece from 1987 which offers clips from the movie and interviews with some of the filmmakers. The extras are rounded out by a TEASER TRAILER, a THEATRICAL TRAILER, a TV SPOT, a STORYBOARD GALLERY, and a BEHIND THE SCENES (sic) GALLERY.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long