Directed by Jackson Stewart
Written by Jackson Stewart & Stephen Scarlata
Starring Graham Skipper, Brea Grant, Chase Williamson and Barbara Crampton
Raise your cyber-hands if you grew up or existed or even have fond feelings for the 80’s? Yes said decade was considered a new golden age of horror giving rise to many of the nefarious icons that plague yet delight the silver screen even to this day. Yet amidst it all, there’s that feeling of nostalgia, of past times forgotten. With the advent of DVD and Blu-Ray we said farewell to the medium of the VCR and all the delightful intricacies that came with it. No more tracking lines, no more “Be Kind Rewind”, no more unspooled film and scuffed prints. And certainly no more VCR games. It is with this mentality that we bring forth “Beyond the Gates”, a retro soaked homage to VCR culture and an age of hot pinks and blues and purples and synthesized otherworldly musical scores.
The tale of a seemingly cursed VCR game and the hapless brothers who discover their father’s connection to it comes to us with a true affinity for 80’s culture. It’s hard not to feel wistful upon hearing the breathtakingly gorgeous musical score or witness the surreal dayglo tinges of the “World Beyond”. Yes this film has style for days yet it is set in modern times, thus ending the nostalgia run at a purely aesthetic note. It doesn’t feel like an 80’s B film or movie-of-the-week outside of the aforementioned trappings. Rather what we have is a curiously slow-burn character drama that just so happens to feature exploding heads and cursed videotapes. It’s a rather bizarre, unexpected and (slightly disappointing) choice of pace. My heart sank a little when the brothers begin the game proper, are told of the 4 keys to collect by the deliciously sinister hostess (played with aplomb by 80’s horror vet Barbara Crampton) and yet my Netflix feed tells me there is but 35 minutes left in the film. Patience is a virtue to get past the set up of the brothers, the girlfriend with a sleeping ailment and the skeezy friend that only slightly plays a role in the overall arc and the missing father. Yet it’s worth the ride as the final half hour is an otherworldly gore fest of nasty kills and sinister spectres.
It’s just an odd film overall and not quite what I expected. Not to say what we have is a poor film by any stretch. The core four are solid characters (mostly) and Crampton has such fun with her nuanced, sinister-yet-seductive Mistress of the Night delivery it’s impossible not to love her performance. The gore effects, once the kills begin, are spectacular and cringe worthy in the best way. The film feels like a labor of love and it has a real charm to it.
But then it also just suffers from some story woes. We’re never really given any insight into what the game is all about or what exactly is going on. Outside of some “Needful Things” type creepy store (complete with cliched creepy shopkeep) it’s left very vague. Once the hour long character drama ends we enter a cheesy scavenger hunt that just never really seems to pick up momentum. How did the father acquire the game? Why did he end up being cursed and disappearing? Was it destiny for the brothers to find it? Why are we never really explained the rules and why does the game, the very core concept of the film, feel like a background element?
Despite all my gripes, I did enjoy it. It’s not the most satisfying film but the concept is interesting, Crampton is great, the musical score is marvelous and the gore effects are top notch. It’s not going to become the cult classic it seems to want to be but if you want an odd little flick to spice up your evening, one could certainly do worse…
3/5 colorful skull tokens
Splatter Factor: 3/5 ** There are not a lot of kills but what we get is nasty and very satisfying. An exploding head, ripped out heart, brutal evisceration (complete with intestines) and nasty looking gashes are the order of the day. Good stuff.**
The Collective Speaks:
We are many united upon a single conscious yet would that we could become a single entity in an archaic form of entertainment. We applaud the effort at hand here and feel the nauseatingly pink glow of an influential decade when our ambassador was but a mewling child. We respect what the filmmakers set out to do even if we, in our multiple minds united, could not quite comprehend exactly what these keys are for. We keep ours locked tightly. Nobody shall pass into our realm unless we bring them forth ourselves, especially not two awkward brothers and their somnambulist female companion…
we absolutely love this music..