The Gate (1986)

As I had some time recently, I thought I would start up my blog again briefly. I probably won’t have much time to post on pop-culture ephemera until this summer, but since my series about my father’s health and the healthcare system is on hold for the time being, I figured I would pick up where I left off, which would be (of course) with some trashy films.

The Gate film posterDir. Tibor Takács, 85 min., Netflix Instant

This is a spring break film if ever there was one: short, badly awesome, and done. The main gist is that a boy, Glen (Stephen Dorff), accidentally digs a hole to hell in his backyard which releases a whole variety of demons to torment himself, his junior-metalhead friend Terry (Louis Tripp), and his teenage sister / babysitter Al (Christa Denton).

If you grew up in the 1980’s there’s a lot of nostalgic moments, including model solid fuel rockets, some eighties Celtic demon metal (with spoken word incantations and a spell book LP insert), and plenty of bad clothes.

As a side note, I was too young for most of these trends; however, one time I did have a mullet. My brothers took me to Super Cuts in Crystal Lake after we finished work. I was around six or seven, and they told me it looked cool (which it totally did). I think my Father almost punched a hole in the wall when he found out (he served in the Army, and hair that brushed against the collar was unacceptable in our household). The people in the film are far more glamorous, in a Family Ties way where the fashions are just devious enough to suggest popular youth culture, but only tangentially approaching punk rock.

The overall feel of the film with its claymation demons and weak visual effects suggests that it’s not trying very hard, but the film definitely takes a couple of turns toward serious horror. The cold open with young Glen walking through a deserted house in a dream sequence certainly suggests that there will be some scariness, and in a later scene Takács prefigures del Toro’s monster from Pan’s Labarynth with the palm-of-the-hand eyeball, but the film quickly turns into a campfest/gross out that is equal parts kid flick and teen comedy. I got a strong vibe of Adventures in Babysitting (1987) crossed with your standard Disney movie of the week.

As you might guess, those rocket models play a crucial role in both the reconciliation of Glen with his sister AND the slaying of the mega-demon who comes to steal the souls of teenage girls and nerdy hair metal children alike. If you miss the 1980’s so much that you want to barricade yourself in a darkened room and replay endless films that enshrine your lost era, this film is a worthy addition; however, you might see more comically oversized spectacles on a walk through Bucktown than in this film, so maybe you are one 10-year fashion cycle away from pining for this type of nostalgia.

As for Tibor Takács, he went on to direct such gems as episodes of The Red Shoe Diaries and, quizzically after that last credit, Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I think I also saw a film starring Rutger Hower somewhere in there.

Metacritic: N/A
RT: 33%
IMDB: 5.4

Me: C-