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The boy Glen (Stephen Dorff) and his best fried Terry (Louis Tripp) accidentally open a gate to hell when a rotten tree is removed from the backyard of Glen’s house. When his dog die and a friend of Glen’s sister, the teenager Alexandra (Christa Denton), buries the animal in the hole, demons from an ancient civilization are released, seeking for two human sacrifices to dominate the world. Glen, Al and Terry, who are spending the weekend alone in the house, fight to save their lives and close the hole.


Towards the latter part of horror’s grandest decade, the eighties, there was a sort of mini revolution of “safe horror”. Films that maintained spooky atmosphere great monsters, but toned down the flesh and blood a bit to appease parents and allow horror films to be viewed by kids whose parental supervision was a bit tighter than my own. The Monster Squad is the film most revered as the greatest of its kind and the Canadian box office hit, The Gate also ranks high on this ladder. Many of these films were made in or around 1987, and rock/metal music romps such as Rock ‘n Roll Nightmare and Slumber Party Massacre II also became somewhat in demand at the this time. The Gate manages to cater to each unique crowd (although leans heavily to the adolescent horror side of things), but how does the film rate through the eyes of an adult?

Glen (Stephen Dorff) is your average suburban kid, he likes to launch off model rockets and hang out with his metal loving buddy, Terry (Louis Trip). Well, at least Glen used to like to launch rockets, things haven’t been the same since he burned a hole in the roof of his parent’s house and now is confined to launching them under the supervision of an adult. Glen’s sister, Al (Christa Denton), is in charge of keeping an eye on Glen while their parents are out of town and Glen is grounded, so he’s stuck up in his room with Terry. They’re good buds and Terry seems to know a lot about the occult, getting most of his information from Sacrifyx’s, album, The Dark Book. It’s the kind of heavy metal album where the liner notes contain passages to summon and defeat demons, and this is of particular use to Glen and Terry as they are about to encounter some creatures that are out of this world.

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A meteor (lightning?) knocks down a tree in Glen’s backyard and Terry and him go out there to explore, collecting a geode in the process. With another one somewhere in the hole from which the tree is exhumed from, they dig in search of it. The tree had once kept the door to hell closed and now is the perfect opportunity for demons to try to take over the world again. Between the words from the metal album and the splintered bloody finger that Glen gets when re-digging the hole, the only thing the demons need to raise some hell is for a living thing to be placed in the hole. Enter Al’s party buddies (they don’t even offer the poor kids a few beer, bastards), one of which promises to take the family dog, Angus, to a proper place as it’s passed on at the age of 97 (in dog years). Oblivious, the guy drops the dog into the gate… and hell on earth is now the special du jour.

The Gate is directed towards a younger audience and to that degree, it works on many levels. As an adult watching the film without any direct history with the film, it works on a few less. Yet, it proves to be a decent entry in the adolescence themed horror films that came quick and went quicker in the eighties. The idea the movie is based on is great. What viewer wouldn’t be interested in a gateway to hell (in someone’s backyard, no less)? The kids in the movie are good fun and you cheer them on the whole way against these supernatural forces. Independence is a big part of this growing up saga, unlike The Monster Squad, the kids are in it alone with only a few 15 year old girls to help them out. In this respect, it’s quite effective and overtakes even The Monster Squad, albeit nothing else in the film ever does. That doesn’t take away anything from The Gate, though it’s not as good as its vastly more popular American comparison, it tries really hard and has lots of heart. While the film lacks distinct Canadiana, looking at it this way makes it really captures the aura of Canadian filmmaking in a nutshell.

The DVD comes new cast and crew interviews. Plus, you get a rather fun commentary from the filmmakers. The theatrical trailer is included, but that doesn’t matter. What works is having this cult classic horror movie coupled with pristine A/V Quality. I’ve never seen the film look any better. If you ever were a fan of 80s kid-friendly horror…then, I recommend it.


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