Friday, September 28, 2012

Movie Review: The Gate

 I have no idea where the hell I was when this came out in 1987.  I had been seeing bits and pieces of this film for years, and of course the imps and other images have been a part of horror pop-culture ever since.  I think the reason that The Gate has managed to resonate with horror films is its innocence.  It is a dark fairy-tale, the last hoorah of our 80s childhood before the 1990s would turn us into the jaded adults of the 21st Century.

 Glenn, his sister Al (Alexandra), and his best friend Terry all live in a quite suburb in the heart of America.  The old tree that has always been in their backyard has been taken down, revealing a gaping hole, from which Glenn and Terry extract a massive geode.  In the process, Glenn pricked his finger on a splinter, leaving a small amount of blood in the hole.  This begins the process of accidentally fulfilling a ritual that will release the Old Gods back to our dimension.

Aww... They're so CUTE!
 When Glenn and Al's parents leave for the weekend, things just continue to escalate.  Terry, a fan of heavy metal, eventually pieces together what is going on through a band who's lyrics are supposedly derived from the "Dark Book", a grimoire for summoning the demons.  Unfortunatley, the chain-of-events has already been set in motion, with one accident after the next completing the ritual until the Old Gods return to bring hell-on-earth, at which point it is up to Glenn to stop the demons and close the Gate.

 The beginning of the film is almost dripping with 80s naivete.  Glenn and Terry are about to stop being kids and start being young-adults, and Al is already a teen concerned about socializing and impressing boys.  The hook in the story is Glenn and Al's relationship.  It is clear they were once close, but age has caused them to begin to drift apart.  Their common interest, model rockets, has taken a backseat to Al's social life.  The story is well written, having a Goonies sort of humor and fun to it.

This is going to make masturbating difficult.
 The special effects, while not cutting edge for their time, were wonderful to behold.  The demons were achieved with stop-motion animation, this probably being one of the last films to use that technique with the advent of CGI.  When the main demon touches Glenn on the head, it seems to be almost loving, only to reveal that he was marking Glenn as he would mark all humanity as his own.  The eye in the hand is easily the most creepy thing about the film.

 The film draws heavily from Sumerian mythology, especially in the manner with which the demon is summoned and eventually dispatched.  It was great to see a film done where the production team and writers knew a little something about the occult, as well as the classical hero-myths, which added greatly to the film's impact.

 More fun than frightening, The Gate is still worth the watch.  By the way, that is little Stephen Dorff playing Glenn, the same actor who would later make Blade tolerable as Deacon Frost.

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