The Gate (1987)

Director:  Tibor Takács
Studios:  New Century Entertainment Corporation, Vista Organisation
Starring:  Stephen Dorff, Louis Tripp, Christa Denton
Tagline:  There's a Passageway - A Gate Behind Which the Demons Wait to Take Back What Was Once Theirs - Pray it's Not Too Late
MPAA Rating:  PG-13
Genre:  horror, thriller, demons, teen
Scare score:  F
Rating:  D

Plot overview:  After opening up a gateway to hell in his backyard, preteen Glen (Dorff) will have to rely on the quirkiness of his friend Terry (Tripp) and the love of his older sister Al (Denton) to close the portal and save the earth.

This movie came recommended to me during a discussion about horror movie favorites, so needless to say I was surprised that it turned out to be such a corny, '80s horror flick.  Nonstop claymation is one thing, but then the irritating and bizarre Terry casting his negative influence on the likes of the innocent Glen is different.  And even though I don't hate claymation, those stupid demons got really annoying really fast.  The big demon wasn't what I was expecting either - I mean honestly this whole movie by today's standards is just heavily tainted by the advancements we've made in special effects in the past 25 years.

I found that the movie to be too predictable (like that big rocket? It's final purpose was clear to Horror Buff from the first time we saw it), with no depth whatsoever.  Also, the action of the film rose and fell too often and too suddenly without a clear goal.  It was exhausting to sit through all the times we thought things would go horribly wrong, only to return to boring, scare-less sequences.  The only thing that kept me watching this movie was (a) hoping that it would get better and (b) the fact that Stephen Dorff is so darn cute.  His last name is also humorously appropriate given his stature.  The fun, realistic brother/sister relationship was what kept this movie going - it was like seeing a pure, American family prior to the technological revolution of the '90s and 2000s.  Nowadays forget about this kind of stuff - no more model rockets, Al (called Allie) would be at the mall with those horrid but hot/popular sisters, texting and Tweeting away.  Terry would be a drug addict alone in his basement listen to Zeppelin backwards looking for demonic messages.  Where would that leave our Glen?  I'm afraid to know the answer.

*SPOILER ALERT* (not that anyone cares...)

It's always an interesting concept when a horror movie has only teenage characters (save the killer of course), which we've seen done a million times over and cleverly parodied in Cabin in the Woods (which I watched months ago and still haven't blogged about... who am I?).  When the horror movie is all about younger children though, that's a different and difficult task.  Like nobody is going to die here, check my rules regarding children, and it was only a matter of waiting for the demons to come out of the gate and then waiting for them to get sent back in again.  Nothing too special here.  In fact, aside from effects, I was more disappointed that the role of the big demon was so random both in terms of timing and purpose.  What was his purpose?? Did he have one?  That whole sequence was poorly done (the eyeball in Glen's hand?  Why?), although it was pretty awesome seeing the whole house fall apart like that.  That must have been really cool to film.

In terms of scares, I thought the best thing this movie had to offer was the scene in the basement when a zombie breaks out of the wall.  That took me by surprise.  *Finally, something decent.*

Final critique:  This movie is cute and all, and I certainly didn't hate it, but I wish I hadn't stayed up late to watch it and then went to work tired the next day.  I can understand why a kid might like this movie, and that if you had seen it enough times as a kid you might have fond memories of it later in life, but as far as horror goes these days, this movie is far too stuck in the '80s.