in Shocktober

The Gate (1987)

I read about The Gate for the first time in an issue of “Horrorhound Magazine”. It was in a feature about PG horror movies. Ya know, stuff the whole family can enjoy. So I thought it would be an interesting departure to turn down the gore and explore the fears of a child. What I found was a movie that played out like an episode of Goosebumps. Mildly creative, and good for wimpy kids, but ultimately lacking conceptually. There’s not much to the story and the film feels restrained by it’s rating. Let me proceed by opening The Gate.

The Gate stars a young Stephen Dorff (weird right?) in his feature film debut as Glen, a curious pre-teen boy in typical suburbia. After a tree is taken down in Glen’s backyard, Glen finds a geode. So Glen and his friend Terry start digging a hole in search of more. Later, Glen and Terry crack open the geode and find a strange note with written incantations. The two read the incantations aloud while a very 80s party is being thrown downstairs by Glen’s sister and boom! A mysterious force answers by levitating Glen. Terry does a little research and comes to the conclusion that the hole is a gateway to the domain of evil gods. Somehow he is absolutely correct and bizarre events continue to take place.

The film builds up to a finale in the hole where Glen discover a race of small demon-like monsters. The monsters provide some wee scares but we don’t get enough of them. There’s a lot that I feel like I’m not getting in The Gate. The whole film is always building to unimpressive set pieces. You want something really cool to happen but then you get something like levitation, or moths, or a vision of some sad kid’s parents. I couldn’t be less interested in The Gate’s attempt at spectacle. Really, I only continued to watch to see the monsters.

Monsters aside I was impressed by the young Stephen Dorff. He was a talented child actor that somehow blossomed into an underwhelming adult actor. The other characters are fairly stock but competently acted as well. The Gate is well put together from a production standpoint it just lacks in the story department. Would I recommend this to a family looking for a good fright? Nah, you’d be better off watching or reading Goosebumps. Might I recommend “The Girl Who Cried Monster”? It’s bone-chilling!

Future star of Space Truckers Stephen Dorff.