I’d ask if you know what time it is, but I’m sure you already know… Yes – it’s Monday! That means, of course, that Monster Monday is upon us! With this being the case, toss all of your worries, stressors and anything else that might be bothering you and prepare yourself to be immersed in the wonderful world of monsters! Today we’re going to be looking at a truly magical masterpiece from 1987 known simply as THE GATE. Let’s begin!
Two young boys accidentally release a horde of nasty, pint-sized demons from a hole in a suburban backyard. What follows is a classic battle between good and evil as the two kids struggle to overcome a nightmarish hell that literally begins to take over the Earth. - IMDb
Few movies have made me sadder than The Gate. If you’ve seen the movie, you might be questioning this assertion: why on Earth would the movie make me sad? It is, for all intents and purposes, a delightful piece of filmmaking… One that captures everything I love so dearly about both 80s horror and childhood-themed films. Let me explain. The first time I saw The Gate was in my late teens. I can’t tell you the exact year, but if I were to guess, I’d say I was 19. I remember going through the digital guide and seeing that it was playing on one of the Showtime channels (it may have been Showtime Beyond, which was a pretty awesome channel, by the way). At any rate, I remember reading the synopsis and being really excited about watching it. I’d never heard of it before, but it appeared to embody everything I loved about horror. As such, I made sure to change my schedule around (aka, watch The Gate instead of some other random movie) and tuned in at the appropriate time. Needless to say, from the opening credits to the end credits, it was clear to me that I’d just witness a masterpiece. So, why be sad, you ask?
It’s a fair question, and I should clarify that the sadness I speak of is really more of an emotional ambiguity rather than an authentic manifestation of negative emotionality. You see, at 19, I was well past the “nostalgia years.” Anyone familiar with me or 80shorror.net will be aware of my obsession with nostalgia. When I watched the movie (and every time I watch it for that matter), I realize how absolutely perfect the film is in terms of capturing my subjective cinematic (and nostalgic) preferences. All the tropes that I love(d) so dearly are those featured in The Gate. Consequently, every time I’m reminded of the movie, I can’t help but think how magical the movie would have been had I watched it during the “golden years” (e.g. age 9-14). That is, if I found the movie so perfectly endearing without that lingering feeling of nostalgia from having glorified it in my childhood, how much better could it have been revisiting it in my future years? Never being able to have an answer to this question is what I refer to when I speak of sadness.
Regardless of these details, however, I truly love this movie. The Gate is, I think, a perfect example of the kind of movie that just doesn’t exist anymore. It’s the ideal amalgamation of genres: there’s a wonderful mixture of horror and fantasy with just enough humor. It’s a children’s movie at heart, but it’s never condescending or judgmental. Its characters are smart, creative and imaginative, and the movie does an exquisite job of being able to captivate younger audiences (or so I assume) while also reverting adult audiences back to their own childhood imaginations and fears. The movie reminds you of what it was like to be a kid and wonderfully orchestrates the notion of childhood nightmares manifested in a dark reality. The setting, the music, the atmosphere and the creatures – all fantastic.
And speaking of the creatures, there are lots of them! Whether big or small, The Gate’s monsters are high in abundance and very cool in design. The movie does take a little while to get going, as the beginning portion focuses on laying the groundwork and atmosphere… But when the first creatures are introduced, it’s essentially a nonstop onslaught of kids battling various sorts of monsters. The really cool thing about this is that the setting is such that it does a really admirable job of initially establishing a sense of normalcy and then slightly altering that normativity so that things seem familiar, yet somehow strangely different. It pulls you in and alludes to everything being okay, yet you know that something is peculiar about an aspect of what you're seeing, even if you can't quite put your finger on it.
From a monster point of view, there are essentially two classes of monsters (or demons) on display. The first monsters are small, rubbery demon like things who don't seem all that threatening at first, but demonstrate their capacity for damage very quickly. The primary monster, however, is saved for the finale, when the protagonist Glen (Stephen Dorif) goes head to head with the gigantic dragon-like demon armed only with a small toy rocket. Most of this face off is done with stop motion animation (which at times does seem a bit comical), but overall it fits well within the context of the film and in some ways enhances the otherworldly aspects of the movie.
Aside from a handful of scenes with Glen's parents, the cast is almost entirely adolescent. One of the crowning achievements of the movie is its ability to capture the adolescent perspective of a world endangered by demons in such a way that is almost completely void of adult influence. In this way, the movie actually seems to have more in common with something like The Neverending Story than it does with Evil Dead (even though both Evil Dead and the Gate focus on an evil being released and the consequent emergence of demons). Thus, the fantastical element of the atmosphere is more efficiently realized and the horror elements feel more trascendental (at least to me).
And, although the movie is filled with tons of memorable scenes, as a whole, it's still more than just the sum of these parts. The pacing feels just right, and everything feels like it has its place. In one scene, Glen's heavy metal obsessed friend listens to an album which contains allusions to a passageway between the human world and that of demons, nicely foreshadowing the ensuing chaos and also helping to build the great eerie atmosphere I alluded to earlier. This is just one of many such scenes, but it's certainly the case that you'll never get bored with the movie! Thus, considering this and all of the other great aspects of the film - the characters, the monsters and effects and essentially everything else - I certainly give the film an extremely high recommendation and suggest you check it out ASAP!