For a low-budget Canadian monster flick aimed at the younger crowd, The Gate actually almost managed to be the top grossing film at the box office the weekend it was released. It was only surpassed by the Dustin Hoffman-Warren Beatty stinker Ishtar and, even then, only barely. It's the kind of movie that wouldn't pull that off these days (if it would even get theatrical play) and it actually turns out to be an entertaining "Sunday afternoon" type of horror flick.
When his tree house is struck by lightning and the tree is uprooted in his backyard, youngster Glen (Stephen Dorff) finds some odd looking rock-like jewels in the hole left behind. Along with his friend Terry (Louis Tripp), they collect them up in hopes of making some money from them.
At the same time, Glen's parents are going after so three days leaving him in the care of his teenage sister, Al (Christa Denton). With Terry sleeping over and Al inviting some school friends over, it's expected to be a pretty normal weekend. That is, until weird things start to happen, such as things moving in the walls and Terry having a vision of his deceased mother that ends with him clutching his friend's now dead dog. And as if that wasn't enough, Terry uses his obsession with obscure heavy metal to learn (from the album jacket of a cheesy European "demonic" band, no less) that the hole in the backyard might just be a gateway to Hell - something that is proven tenfold when everyone in the house find themselves under attack from various demons.
Michael Nankin's script is filled with lots of typical 80's dialogue and insults ("suck my nose until my head caves in") and things start off pretty leisurely but once our young cast is thrown into peril is when The Gate really picks-up. Despite being rated PG-13 there's still quite a bit of grue on hand as a demon posing as Glen's dad has its face smushed in, a zombie workman bursts out from between the walls, and a cut off arm turns into slithering white slugs upon hitting the ground.
Director Tibor Takacs keeps things going at a brisk pace in the final third and the movie offers up enough memorable moments to work and despite having a pretty wimpy "hero" in Glen and having a so-so dispatch of our final, gigantic, demonic creature, the movie does sport a good series of "scare" moments and has extremely well done effects for its decade and budget range (those mini troll demons are pretty cool looking). While it might not be as good as other, similar, movies (Critters comes to my mind, for some reason), The Gate is still an agreeable time that is pretty fun to watch and never takes itself too seriously.
Dorff would move onto a steady acting career as an adult with films such as Blade and Feardotcom while director Takacs and co-star Tripp would re-team five years later to make a, less enjoyable, sequel to this (which was also written by scripter Nankin). Takacs would also go on to direct a whole bunch of B-level action movies (such as the Lorenzo Lamas starring Bad Blood) and horror flicks (Killer Rats, Mosquitoman). Nankin would go onto a steady career as a writer and director of various television shows.
Followed by a sequel. (Chris Hartley, 5/22/07)
Directed By: Tibor Takacs.
Written By: Michael Nankin.
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Louis Tripp, Christa Denton, Kelly Rowan.