The Gate – Shocktober Continues!

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.

Alone in the Dark – Videogames are bad for you week

Well I hated to see last week’s ‘Don’t Get on That Boat week’ end but it’s time to move to a new topic. This week is ‘Videogames are bad for you week’. All of the movies will be about videogames or are based on videgames. Alone in the Dark is currently available on instant Netflix.

Alone in the Dark

AVOID: Alone in the Dark (2004) – Rated R for violence and language

“Private sleuth Edward Carnby (Christian Slater) specializes in weird supernatural phenomena, and he’ll be forced to work with his archaeologist ex-girlfriend (Tara Reid) to defeat the demonic ancient Abskani tribe, which is set to wreak havoc on Earth. But Carnby already has experience with the evil beings, which also attempt to infiltrate his mind. Stephen Dorff co-stars in this sci-fi thriller based on the popular video game series.”

Ha ha ha – I hardly know where to start. Let’s begin by revising Netflix’ information. All of the above is wrong. The Alone in the Dark they have on instant play is Alone in the Dark II not the film listed above even though that’s the information they have for it. The corrected listing is below.

Alone in the Dark 2

AVOID: Alone in the Dark II (labeled Alone in the Dark) – Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, and brief drug content.

“When a 100-year-old witch (Allison Lange) hatches a horrid plot to sacrifice a young girl with a mystical dagger, a team of witch hunters led by Edward Carnby (Rick Yune) set out to stop the killing and retrieve the terrible blade. But soon they discover that anyone who touches the knife falls under the power of the witch’s vengeful bloodlust. Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer direct this horror film that co-stars Lance Henriksen.”

“This is radioactive solution…makes you invisible to the other side. It cancels out the aura.”

I’m not sure whether to be pleased or disappointed that I won’t have to watch Uwe Boll’s original film. This direct to video sequel replaces Christian Slater with Rick Yune as Edward Carnby. It is written and directed by Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer.

First off I have to say that I’m glad this wasn’t a theatrical release. The combination of shaky cam, jump cuts, shifting camera angles and out of focus photography would probably have made me very ill. It is still almost headache-inducing to watch.

It really has no connection to the first film except that one character is called Edward Carnby. The film revolves around a group of hapless Ghosthunter-wannabes. They might as well be wearing red shirts or bullseyes.

The film is ridiculously heavy-handed. You see everyone hiding in an electrified cage so you know the power is going to go out. It does so almost immediately. You see a device with a large spike so you know someone will get impaled on it. Lo and behold, moments later someone is impaled on it.

Hilariously there is a door that opens partway up from the ground. Clearly Carnby can crawl through but Natalie (Rachel Specter) declares only she can squeeze through. Later on the door closes and the heroes spike it to keep it from closing completely. When it opens to about the same height as before, Carnby removes the block (even though he could go through and leave it there) and crawls through. The door promptly tries to shut on his foot. Then another character says that they’ll go get the car jack – something that would have made the whole sequence moot.

It is a shame that this movie isn’t any good. They assembled a genre fan’s dream cast which is surprising for a direct to video feature. It is not surprising that these people would be in a DTV movie – it is just surprising that so many of them are in the same one.

In addition to the always wonderful Lance Henriksen, Michael Pare (Bad Moon, Gargoyles) pops up briefly as Willson. Danny Trejo (Grindhouse, From Dusk til Dawn) and Ralf Moeller (best known as the giant German from Gladiator). Also putting in appearances are Zack Ward (Freddy vs. Jason, Transformers), Bill Moseley (Grindhouse, The Devil’s Rejects), Natassia Malthe (DOA, Elektra) and Jason Connery (son of Sean).

In spite of the ineptitude the film almost ends well and then we have a cheap cop-out. After the cheap cop-out, we have an obligatory second cheap cop-out which makes absolutely no sense given what went on throughout the entire film. Sorry to keep that vague but I hate spoiling even the bad films.

People Watch: Who should pop up as Lance Henriksen’s wife but P.J. (Carrie, Halloween) Soles.