It’s really tough to separate my bias for “The Gate” and be objective about the entire film. “The Gate” is one film that was on constant rotation for me as a child, and it was a pure favorite of mine in the days when my only source of movie viewing was the WPIX primetime movie during the week. “The Gate” is almost like Lovecraft for the Goonies audience that thankfully hasn’t worn much in its old age. It’s tonally uneven, granted, but still such a damn fun horror fantasy.
Stephen Dorff plays Glen, a seemingly normal suburban boy whose life changes when construction workers cut down the tree in his back yard that oddly enough lies at the gateway of a hellish dimension. By a series of coincidences and circumstances (involving a geode and a dead dog), Glen and his friend Terry accidentally complete a ritual that opens the gate allowing its demonic beings to breach our reality. Over the course of one night Glen, Terry, and Glen’s sister Al have to do battle with its assorted minions including dwarfish demons, apparitions, and hellish hallucinations. “The Gate” constantly jumps back and forth from a “Goonies”-esque fantasy horror film to pure horror that drips with dread at every turn.
Director Tibor Takács summons the mood and atmosphere of HP Lovecraft, leaving elements of the villainous demons ambiguous while also revealing their abilities to wreak havoc on our trio of heroes. We’re given a clear insight in to their power to touch on people’s greatest fears and personal demons, and forming a hive mind to combine their strength. As well, there’s the unveiling of the master being in the finale, but we’re never quite given a full glimpse in to the dimension the demons originate from. That’s kept mysterious until the sequel. I still love the design of the small demons and have always enjoyed how vicious they are, in spite of their size.
In either case, “The Gate” forms some truly interesting characters with their own issues and complexities, all the while forming a three pronged narrative that ends in a final scene I’m still convinced is a deceptive fantasy. “The Gate” can be funny, surreal, and often times really creepy, especially during the scene where sister Al is dragged away by a zombie. There’s also the great moment where Glen’s parents (out of town for most of the movie) arrive during the chaos to embrace him, only to reveal themselves to be demons. “The Gate” is a tough sell, but still a very entertaining and raucous mind trip in to a horrific night that never seems to end. It’s great nostalgia, and still holds up as a horror fantasy hybrid.