Halloween Scene: The Gate (1987)

Holy crap, you guys, I LOVED The Gate. I never saw it when I was a kid, but it’s exactly the kind of story I want to tell in my comics and writing with kids getting involved in some pretty heavy supernatural shit and figuring out how to stop a demon god on earth all on their own. In the case of The Gate, a 14-year-old but much younger looking Stephen Dorf finds himself along with his friend Terry and his older sister Al dealing with an ever-growing supernatural presence after a tree in their backyard gets exploded by lightning revealing a hole to hell–which seems a little too easy to fill in throughout the movie if you ask me.

Thanks to a series of accidents (a cut hand and the burial of a dead animal) the boys find themselves mostly responsible for a small army of tiny demons getting out (mini monsters, though not the ones I remember), a ton of weird illusions (levitation, homes), zombies and a full-on demon like something out of latter Buffy seasons when they actually had a budget. Luckily Terry has a European heavy metal album that reprints an ancient tome in the album that basically explains everything that’s going on. And if you play the record backwards, it explains how to send the demon back to hell. Of course, things don’t go as planned and things end after a different kind of attack, one that, if I were to summarize it would sound so silly you’d never watch the movie so I will refrain.

What I love about the movie is that it seems so inherently from my childhood. You don’t see movies like this anymore with kids facing off against crazy horror threats. At least from the States, The Substitute did a hell of a job. The movie’s not particularly gory, but there are some pretty intense sense both of the supernatural and the social type. Dorf gets levitated in a room full of his sister’s friends, freaks out, falls and starts crying before running up to his room. The best part is that NO ONE but him thinks that’s weird. “It was just an illusion.” THE KID FLEW. Overall the sisters’ friends are absolute assholes, especially when it comes to the death of the family pet. There’s also a scene where his sister seems to choose her friends over her own brother the night after the pet death. I don’t have an old sibling, but I can only imagine what that would feel like, especially after she saw the crazy shit going on the night before.

The Gate’s kind of a mix of Goonies, E.T., The Lost Boys with a little Troll 2 in there. It’s not a perfect movie by any means and you’ve got to watch it with a bit of a smirk, but I had a ball watching it. For the most part, the special effects hold up, even though you can see the screen separation between the mini demons (who were full sized people at a forced perspective according to the IMDb Trivia page) and the main characters, but I like the way they did this better than simply dressing up little people. There’s some stuff with insects that was particularly creepy, especially because there was a huge beetle-thing flying around the light right next to be while I watched this movie on Comcast in my in-laws’ living room last night. Ambiance y’all. I wonder what kids today would think of this movie. I’d be cautious to show it to anyone under 10, depending on how they take other movies. Now that I think about it, Harry Potter and friends have gone up against some pretty disturbing villains that I’m not sure I’d want my younger children see. But hey, Harry had a wand, Dorf and Terry just had a rocket and a heavy metal record, so take THAT!

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2 thoughts on “Halloween Scene: The Gate (1987)

  1. They recently screened this at The Castro theater in 35mm on the big screen. I missed this one back in the 80s when I was a theater manager, but finally got around to seeing it. The effects largely hold up, and I found it to be genuinely creepy in some parts. Fun kid horror flick of a type we just do not see anymore. If you’re working on stuff like this, then more power to you! We need more great kid horror.

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