The Gate is currently available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime
The Gate (1987) – Rated PG-13
“When an old tree is removed from their back yard, Glen and his sister Al find a fascinating stone in the hole left behind. Intrigued, the siblings dig deeper into the hole and unearth a mysterious gate that opens a portal to a hellish underworld.”
“We accidentally summoned demons who used to rule the universe to come and take over the world. “
Writer Michael Nankin based The Gate on events from his childhood and, of course, on the old urban legend that if you play particular records backwards you get satanic lyrics (though he does play a joke on that). He was planning to direct as well but first-time theatrical director Tibor Takacs was tapped instead. The album they use features the logo for Sacrifice (Sacrifyx), a thrash metal band.
14-year-old actor Stephen Dorff not only makes his theatrical debut here but is also the protagonist, Glen. He is adorable as the poor youngest child. Backing him up, and overshadowing him, is Louis Tripp as Glen’s nerdy best friend Terry Chandler. Christa Denton is big sister Al. Jennifer Irwin is her friend Linda Lee.
In the opening sequence, Glen comes home to find his suburban house disquietingly empty, meal left on the table, television playing. Is that a 14-year-old’s nightmare or dream? In real-life or in the movies, do parents ever leave for days and not have their children throw a party?
The real reasons to watch The Gate, besides the horrific 80s fashion victims, are a wonderful sense of nostalgia in the script and the fabulous if oddball special effects. Writer Michael Nankin, much like Stephen King, remembers what it is like being a young boy. Not only are geodes, model rockets (hurrah for Estes!), jarring insects, a magnetic eraseboard, and albums present but they actually play a vital role in the plot. Nankin also has a good grasp of sibling and friend dynamics.
In spite of the PG-13 rating, I can never show this to my wife as it has one of those under the bed scenes. Also don’t mistake the PG-13 rating for being family friendly. While this is a cute horror movie, there are some intense scenes of peril – all involving children.
There are clutching arms, spooky visitations, corpses, and various light shows that are all handled just fine. However the tiny demons that appear halfway through the movie are awesome and steal the show..
People Watch: Kelly Rowan, Lori Lee in The Gate, would go on to star as Kirsten Cohen on The. O.C.
Sequel-itis: Director Tibor Takacs made a sequel in 1988 that did not get released until 1992. Gate 2: The Trespassers stars Louis Tripp from the first film. It has never received a U.S. DVD release which should tell you a bit.