By Ray Schwetz
As a teenager in the eighties, I pretty much saw whatever film ran at the local theatres (for Long Islanders, those were the Park East, The Herricks Twin, and Roosevelt Field). Horror films were of the utmost importance. I saw such seminal classics as "April Fool's Day," "The Bride," "Godzilla 1985," "Critters 2," "Maxie" (those of you who don't think this film's scary obviously haven't seen it), and the film that is the subject of this review.
"The Gate" is a silly tale of a couple of kids who stumble upon a hole in their backyard that is a gateway to Hell. After opening the gate by playing a heavy metal record backwards (no, I'm not kidding), both zombies and small creatures called minions emerge. After the success of "Gremlins," there were many knockoffs sporting pint-sized horrors ("Munchies," "Critters," "Ghoulies," to name a few). "The Gate" was one of the better ones. It struck a chord with me due to the excellent Ray Harryhausen-ish stop-motion effects. Surprisingly, most of the effects still hold up well today.
"Blade" fans will get a kick out of seeing a very young Stephen Dorff in the lead. The other unknown actors range from average to very poor. Christa Denton is engaging as Dorff's gawky sister, while Louis Tripp plays his morbid best friend. For those interested, Tripp returns in the unnecessary and inferior, yet somewhat entertaining, sequel.
Director Tibor Takacs keeps the action moving at a swift pace, while developing the characters just enough to make them likable. He even presents a few subtle scares (the family portrait by the basement steps creeped me out). Fans of eighties horror will find this film harmless fun and fairly diverting.
This PAL Region 2 DVD release is presented by a company called Digital Entertainment Ltd. The keepcase label indicates that the film is presented here in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but it appears to be a 1.66:1. The picture is riddled with compression artifacts and over-saturation of color. The 2.0 stereo audio fares better. There is little spatializing, but the soundtrack is clean and clear.
Extras include the trailer (which is pretty cool) and a useless photo library. The animated menus are neat. A few lines of dialogue and music are looped over thematic graphics. This film is another case of love it or leave it. If you love the film, the DVD is worth the $22 investment. Otherwise, don't bother. Hopefully, the film will eventually get a decent transfer, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Enjoy!