The Gate (1987)

thegate

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Two kids accidentally find themselves contending with demons in this 80’s cult classic horror film.

Briefly before his parents leave for the weekend, pre-teen Glen is digging his backyard with his best friend Terry. Unearthing a geode, they see smoke come up from the hole. Shocked at their discovery, the kids begin to wonder what had just happened. However, Glen’s parents force them to cover up the hole. Originally meant to have a babysitter, Glen’s sister Al convinces their parents to let her watch Glen over the weekend.

Al, taking full advantage of her parents’ being gone, invites best friends Lori and Linda to her house. At a party at the house, Glen is levitated to his embarrassment. However, after the party, things begin to happen. Terry, having a heavy metal album, plays the record for Glen and they soon learn through mysterious circumstances that the hole they accidentally unleashed is a gate to Hell. When Glen and Terry, along with Al, begin to experience demons as well as hallucinating images, the trio must find a way to close the gate before it’s too late.

In the 1980s, horror films was at perhaps one of its highest points with franchise films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Child’s Play beginning as well as having a massive market on the home video front. In 1987, this PG-13 rated film about a gate to Hell was written based on experiences from scripter Michael Nankin. Originally set to direct, Nankin and producers handed the reins to Tibor Takacs, who did a great job with how he used a minimal amount of gross-out scenes and rather stick to more scares in the form of small demonic minions.

The film marked the debut of Stephen Dorff, who would go on to play villain Deacon Frost in 1998’s Blade and recently, crazed sheriff Hal Hartman in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel Leatherface. Dorff does quite well as the innocent Glen, who finds himself either scared crapless or having the courage to do something about the gate and the demons involved. He has excellent support from the metal-loving Terry, well played by Louis Tripp. Terry has a bit of his own backstory, using his love of metal and chaos as a means to overcome his fear of losing his mother and having an absent father. As for Christa Denton’s Al (short for Alexandra), she finds herself conflicted between her budding teenage ways and being there for her little brother for much of the film, something that depicts something expected in real-life.

The film does have its share of gross-out scenes, notably when Glen thinks he sees his father who turns out to be someone far more dangerous and the confrontation leads to something vomit-worthy. However, one scene does bring yell another recent horror film of that era. When the trio encounters an apparently dead workman in their wall, the workman falls and turns into a group of small demonic minions. Surprisingly, the minions are actually played by actors and yet they have the look of something expected in Claymation form. These are the type of characters one may want to have in an action figure form. The last act has some intricate twists and turns.

The Gate has some very tense and some gross out moments, but it is definitely an underrated horror gem driven by the trio of Stephen Dorff, Louis Tripp, and Christa Denton.

WFG RATING: B+

A New Century Entertainment production. Director: Tibor Takacs. Producer: John Kemeny. Writer: Michael Nankin. Cinematography: Thomas Vamos. Editing: Rit Wallis.

Cast: Stephen Dorff, Louis Tripp, Christa Denton, Kelly Rowan, Jennifer Irwin, Sean Fagan, Deborah Grover, Scot Denton, Ingrid Veninger, Linda Goranson, Carl Kraines.

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