Jarv’s Schlock Vault: The Gate

 

Demons aren’t gonna ring the doorbell!

 Jarv’s Rating: 2.5 Changs- enjoyable 80’s fun.

 This is one that I watched a bit ago and for one reason or another never got round to reviewing properly. Seeing as I’ve watched nothing for a while, I thought I’d dig this discarded review out of the pile, polish it up a wee bit and post it for today’s vault entry. I was prompted to do this by the frankly inexplicable news that this little gem is being remade, and not only that, but the man at the helm is none other than Alex Winter: Bill S. Preston, Esquire himself. Don’t fuck this up, “dude”.

The Gate has an interesting history. It’s one of the first PG13 horror films, and was also one of the “hardest”, pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable at that level. It was helped by the fact that PG13 was a relatively new rating, and by cleverly going for this level, they managed to attract a larger audience than they would otherwise, and quite easily thrashed notorious star studded mega turkey Ishtar at the Box Office. Since then, though, it’s been shunted around distributors and is actually amazingly difficult to get hold of. Without resorting to piracy, that is.

The Gate is basically about Glenn, his sister “Al” and his best mate, Terry. They’re pretty unremarkable kids, really, being interested in shit like bottle rockets, crap music, digging holes looking for meteorites, the supernatural and in Al’s case, hormone driven teenage encounters. Unfortunately for them, their garden happens to be over a hellmouth, and through a series of unfortunate events they accidentally complete the ritual to release Lovecraftian “old ones” to wreak havoc on the world. Terry knows this, because a shitty European LP tells him, but only because (in a nod to the notorious subliminal “backmasking” nonsense at the time) he played the record backwards.

The acting in this film is surprisingly good. Stephen Dorff puts in arguably his lifetime’s performance as Glenn, and the other child actors hold up their end reasonably well. There’s a frankly hilarious scene with nerdy Terry playing air guitar to the unspeakable Euro-rock (could have been worse, he could have got hold of a Scorpions album- then the world would have been fucked) and he’s also able to convincingly portray a hurt and confused kid with serious parental problems. It’s a good effort.

The writing is also reasonably sharp. I can’t help but wonder if the backmasking reference in this film wasn’t inspired by the idiocy aimed at Led Zeppelin by fundamentalists- which would fit considering the LP is “from Europe”, because it’s cleverly done and amusing that the instructions to save the world would be only available if you play it backwards. As opposed to the accusations that Stairway has “It’s my sweet Satan … Oh I will sing because I live with Satan” on it. Which is clearly bollocks. Incidentally, this nonsense reached a peak in 1990 when Judas Priest were sued by 2 Nevada families over the allegedly subliminal message in one of their songs that caused the two sons to off themselves. If you can ever find the footage of the trial, it’s absolutely fucking hilarious. The singer tries to demonstrate in court and it sounds like “Chewing gum” before he breaks down and asserts that if they were going to plant a message it would be “buy more records”.

Anyhow, I digress. The other cleverness in the writing is that the childhood trauma suffered by the kids is handled deftly and sympathetically. Terry in particular has serious problems, and Glenn’s father tries to explain it as gently as he can to Glenn. This is a great touch, and there’s plenty of them in the film.

The real show stopper of the Gate though is that it has absolutely superb effects. They were great at the time, and the blend of stop-motion and other work hasn’t aged badly at all. Whereas CGI tends to look out of date by the time you’ve left the theatre, the effects in these older films usually manage to last a lot longer than the shiny superficial computer driven nonsense.

However, there’s just one thing to point out about The Gate that stops it gettnig a higher rating: it isn’t scary. It wasn’t scary in the 80’s and it isn’t scary now. Unfortunately, they didn’t realise that they didn’t have the juice to scare the crap out of the audience, and as a result, The Gate is played as a straight horror. If there had been a few more intentional laughs in it, or even accidental ones, then the film would be much, much better. Either that or the gore and terror should have been ramped up, if they were aiming for horror, as what we are left with is neither one thing or the other. A shame.

Overall, would I recommend it? Yup, unquestionably. The demons are great fun, and it’s an enjoyable kiddie-aimed romp. There’s nothing in it that would scare a nervous Twilight fan, but there is plenty that can be enjoyed. It’s a funny thing to say about a horror film, but this is as close as the genre ever got to good gentle fun. It’s the horror Goonies.

And Bill, dude, I really mean this: don’t fuck this up.

Until next time,

Jarv

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

102 responses to “Jarv’s Schlock Vault: The Gate”

  1. xiphos0311 says :

    their garden happens to be over a hellmouth

    So this takes place in LA then?

    I barely remember this but I think It was OK.

    • Jarv says :

      Very possibly. There’s a beach, so I bet it is LA.

      It’s an OK-Good film. I enjoyed it- but I remembered it scaring the crap out of me when I was about 9. It’s not scary in the slightest. I was a soft kid.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        I meant that Hell A is hell on earth, it’s quarter to four in the morning and the joke in my sleep clogged head didn’t make it to the interwebs all that well.

      • Jarv says :

        Oh I know what you were going for- it’s just funny that you were accidentally right as well. Maybe that’s another irony the makers were aiming at.

  2. Droid says :

    Never see this, of course. Sounds alright.

    Dorff is making a comeback of sorts. He was in Public Enemies and is also going to be in that Greek gods movie directed by The Fall bloke.

    • Jarv says :

      There’s good Dorff (Backbeat, Blade) who makes the occasional foray, but mostly his evil Twin turns up in shite like Space Truckers or Alone in the Dark.

      A very patchy actor.

      • Droid says :

        Yeah, and that SFW piece of shit. He was good in Blood and Wine though.

      • Jarv says :

        Looking at it, he’s been in some proper mince.

      • koutchboom says :

        He was in Felon recently, the film that ruined Val Kilmer’s career. But its really good.

      • Droid says :

        There was A film that ruined Val Kilmers career!?

      • koutchboom says :

        Actually Jarv, Felon for your unrated series. Probably one of the best DTV movies I’ve ever seen.

      • koutchboom says :

        Well in terms of getting roles, he put on like 50 pounds for the role and it was too hard to take it off. So no one wanted to hire a fat Val. But he looks like he’s making a comeback.

      • Jarv says :

        He’s the voice of Kitt now in Knight Rider. I think.

        Didn’t The Saint kill his career way back when?

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah that show is cancelled.

        Yea yea yea you can point out this movie that movie that killed his career, but he STILL had a career after those movies. I’m just saying that because of Felon and gaining the weight he had a hard time getting roles, and since has been relegated to DTV garbage. But he’s coming back.

        I mean if anything back then it was his lunatic attitude that killed his career, fucking Brando called him a diva.

      • Droid says :

        Val has been pretty solid (ie. build) for quite a while now. When was Felon made?

        I like quite a few Val movies. He’s fucking awesome in Heat. Ditto Spartan. And The Doors (no matter what you think of the movie, he’s great). He’s good in Wonderland. I have a soft spot for The Ghost and the Darkness, The Saint and Red Planet. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is great.

        Although he has made his fare share of stinkers, and he was a shit Batman in a shit Batman flick.

        But really, all you need to mention is Doc Holliday. That’s an epic performance.

      • koutchboom says :

        “Val Kilmer is struggling to shift all the weight he piled on for his latest film role.

        The actor bulked up to pay a prisoner in forthcoming release Felon – and he confesses the weight isn’t dropping off as easily as he’d hoped.

        Kilmer says, “I just started eating – everyone else was working out and I was ordering the extra Haagen-Dazs.”

        And the 48-year-old admits he has been embarrassed by photos of him in magazines looking fat: “You’ve got to suffer the private photos of you. You can’t go running after the paparazzi, saying, ‘But it’s for a movie.'”

      • Droid says :

        And he’s in Renny Fucking Harlins new movie, Georgia! With Andy Garcia! Hopefully it will feature a balls out throw down screaming match between those two.

        Kilmer v Garcia screaming match = Instant Classic.

      • koutchboom says :

        Sweet he was in one of Renny’s other films recently, Mindhunters!

        He’s in Irishman this year, thats all that matters he will be god again.

        And I still can hope for a sequel to Port Call starrring him.

      • Jarv says :

        He was good in Wonderland.

        And he wasn’t fat in that.

      • Droid says :

        Mindhunters sucked balls and was blaringly obvious.

      • koutchboom says :

        12 Rounds FTW!!!

      • Droid says :

        Theres a lot of Renny FTW!!! Just not Mindhunters. Or The Covenant. Or The Exorcist prequel. Or Ford Fairlane or whatever the fuck its called.

      • Jarv says :

        Talking about Rennie, I’ve still not seen his Exorcist Prequel.

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah nothing will top Deep Blue Sea.

      • Jarv says :

        The Covenant is wank. And not even entertaining wank. “Wee-otch” indeed.

      • Jarv says :

        Deep Blue Sea FTW!!!

        Fucking love that film.

      • Droid says :

        I prefer LKGN to DBS. But thats like getting headjobs from 2 different chicks and trying to choose the best one. Who cares? They’re both great.

      • Jarv says :

        LKGN! Shane Black FTW!!!

        Both excellent films. I’m undecided about both Cliffhanger and Cutthroat Island. I fluctuate between thinking they’re mintier than the place that makes money and shittier than a sewage works.

      • Droid says :

        I haven’t seen Cliffhanger or Cuttroat Island for years, but my memory tells me I love both.

        Important question? Has Renny had any representation in the form of a review on this site? If not, it’s a gross error on our part. He’s going to be directing our film for crying out loud!

      • koutchboom says :

        I have been meaning to see Ford Farline.

        I think Deep Blue Sea is one of my top ten favorite films. I saw that movie 8 times in theaers, granted I was living above a free theater for the summer.

      • Jarv says :

        I’m sure Frank had one.

        We should probably remedy that along with returning Tremors 3 and Bitch Slap.

      • Droid says :

        Frankie did do 12 Rounds actually.

  3. xiphos0311 says :

    Ok got my juice and now I’m awake a little.

    Good point about special effects. There is a place for computer effects mostly for bringing things like ancient Rome, or London in Sherlock Holmes time to life. CGI is also good for enhancing practical effects but as a rule practical effects are still king right now. Maybe when the technology doubles in ability then computer effects might pass practical effects.

    • Jarv says :

      I find it particularly weird with films like this or critters where the monsters are CLEARLY stop motion, but still look convincing- I completely agree with you about backgrounds.

      The thing is, there’s an absolutely stunning effect where the big demon falls down and shatters into lots of little demons that looks superb in this- and they did it with no fucking money.

      It really makes me wonder precisely WHAT the likes of Bay spend hundreds of millions on.

  4. Droid says :

    I haven’t seen it for about 5 years, but when I did watch it last I was amazed how well the FX in Jurassic Park 1 has held up. That T-Rex attack is a virtually flawless blend of practical and CGI. I never once didn’t believe that the T-Rex is actually there.

    • Jarv says :

      That’s the exception though, compare it with lots of the laughable effects that we see all the time.

      • Droid says :

        I was pointing it out because I think because of the relative inexperience with CGI at that time, I think a lot more thought went in to how the scenes were shot and what would be practical, what could be CGI.

        Nowadays because “anything” can be done, and it’s deemed “easier”, it’s like they don’t have that same discipline in making it look believable.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        The shit effects in DH4 come to mind.
        It was one of the worse use of CGI I think I’ve ever seen.

      • Jarv says :

        Oh christ, they were terrible. Remember how much better the plane scene was in True Lies compared.

        Scandalous.

      • herr milflover says :

        That’s because Arnold’s not a pussy, he rode a real plane for that scene.

  5. xiphos0311 says :

    With stop motion as opposed to a pure CGI creation you have a real thing like a doll or clay or whatever medium they use that has some actual mass and isn’t solely composed of zeros and ones and only exists inside of a computer.

    That little bit of mass makes the stop motion seem more life like. Or something like that.

    • Jarv says :

      CGI has got a lot better, I can’t remember what I was watching recently, but I remember thinking that the CGI creation looked “heavy” like it had an actual physical presence.

      I still think there’s a case to be made for “if you can do it practically, do it practically”.

      Friedkin talking about The Exorcist is really interesting- they built a giant freezer for the room, to get steam on the breath and as a result he managed to get actual shaking from the actors that he wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise. And he pointed out that it was probably less expensive than CGI’ing in the steam.

      Although Friedkin is a dick who slapped a priest, damaged Ellen Burstyn’s back, fired fucking guns on set, deliberately tampered with the rig to make sure that Puke hit Karras in the face etc.

      A real fucking method director.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        I still haven’t seen anything yet that I truly thought had any real heft but things like water and fire has gotten a shit load better then at the dawn of the CGI age.

      • Jarv says :

        I’m trying to remember what it was, but I remember thinking that it looked like it had actual presence. I’m hoping it wasn’t in some Green Screen garbage like 300.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        Friedkin shot a gun set? A loaded weapon with a hot round, why?

        Slapping a priest I can see that.

      • Droid says :

        Other effects that still stand up (at least last time I saw it) is Starship Troopers.

      • Jarv says :

        That’s what it was- Starship Troopers. The big bugs in that look like they’re there.

      • Droid says :

        Not all the effects mind you. Stuff like the city never did. But a lot of the bug stuff is still awesome.

      • Jarv says :

        Because he’s a dick. He wanted to provoke a “genuine” reaction rather than have actors, you know, act.

        Conti will probably be able to expand on this.

      • Jarv says :

        I think it may have been a shotgun. I’m just going to check.

      • Droid says :

        Coppola does similar stuff. I was reading an article about Damon and his experience on The Rainmaker and he talked about the scene where Virginia Madsen is on the witness stand and how Coppola would stand next to the camera screaming abuse at her so he could get the reaction shots he wanted.

        I probably would’ve punched him.

      • Jarv says :

        I wouldn’t punch Friedkin as he looks insane. I would lamp Coppola though. Fat cunt.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        Coppola seems like a four star douche bag. I just finished reading The kid Stays in the Picture and if you can believe Robert Evans(still not sure about that) Coppola was a fucking back stabbing lying ego maniac of epic proportions.

      • Jarv says :

        I’ve read that, and although Evans is a self-serving cokehead, I believe his account of what happened with Coppola.

        On the basis that a lot of that book is him self-flagellating. He’s a merciless towards himself as he is to those he’s talking about- and nobody has ever sued him for it.

      • Droid says :

        I haven’t read Kid, but I’ve read Easy Riders Raging Bulls which paints that picture of Coppola as well. It also doesn’t exactly make Evans in to Mr Nice Guy either. Both were egotistical cunts, along with a lot of those guys.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        I believe Evans about Hollywood things but there are other parts like his drug use, alleged involvemnet with his brother in dealing some major weight and his mob ties. With those I think he was at least shading his involvement if not outright lying.

      • Jarv says :

        I remember him talking about the drugs deal, and he was definitely lying. He’s a cock as well.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        Ah yes Robert Evans. I remember I got Stallone to tell us his Evans story over to Harold’s 4 years back, seeing’s how Evans raked Sly over the coals for backing outta doing the Cotton Club.

        Sly said that basically Evans invited him to his mansion, pulled out an album of past conquests’ footang shots and said ‘Looks like we’ve got something in common’, amongst the beaver cleavers was a red-head that Sly was seeing at the time. Stallone nearly decked the man and left right then and there. No Cotton Club.

        Yeah that sounds like Robert Evans.

        Coppola well all you need to know is watch that documentary his ex-shot of them making ‘Apocalypse Now’. Complete nightmare.

      • Jarv says :

        There’s a similar story in The Kid with Mickey Rourke along those lines.

        And The Chin has one as well.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        What-both Bruce the Chin and Rourke had similar Robert Evans encounters??? the man is living dangerously-

  6. Jarv says :

    Wikipedia:

    “Friedkin went to some extraordinary lengths, reminiscent of D.W. Griffith’s manipulation of the actors, to get the genuine reactions he wanted. Yanked violently around in harnesses, both Blair and Burstyn suffered back injuries and their painful screams went right into the film. Burstyn later reported that she had permanent back injury after landing on her coccyx when a stuntman jerked her via cable during the scene when Regan slaps her mother. After asking Reverend William O’Malley if he trusted him and being told yes, Friedkin slapped him hard across the face before a take to generate a deeply solemn reaction that was used in the film, as a very emotional Father Dyer read last rites to Father Karras; this offended the many Catholic crew members on the set. He also fired a gun without warning on the set to elicit shock from Jason Miller for a take. Lastly, he had Regan’s bedroom set built inside a freezer so that the actors’ breath could be visible on camera, which required the crew to wear parkas and other cold-weather gear.”

    He’s completely unrepentant about it.

  7. xiphos0311 says :

    Damn he is a dick. I bet it was a live round also. There is a big different in sound between a live round and a blank.

    • Jarv says :

      On the doc on the DVD I’ve got they say it was a live round.

      What a cock.

    • xiphos0311 says :

      Jesus what a fucking asshole, not only will it fuck with everyone’s hearing, firing weapons inside with out ear protection is not a good idea outside is only marginally better, but the round has a distressing ability to cause unanticipated problems.

      • Jarv says :

        He’s a legendary asshole.

      • Droid says :

        Dark Helmet: Who is he?
        Colonel Sandurz: He’s an asshole sir.
        Dark Helmet: I know that! What’s his name?
        Colonel Sandurz: That is his name sir. Asshole, Major Asshole!
        Dark Helmet: And his cousin?
        Colonel Sandurz: He’s an asshole too sir. Gunner’s mate First Class Philip Asshole!
        Dark Helmet: How many asholes do we have on this ship, anyway?
        Entire Bridge Crew: Yo!
        Dark Helmet: I knew it. I’m surrounded by assholes!

      • Jarv says :

        Been saving that up?

        Talking about which, completely co-incidentally there was Conan on TV last night. It was mint.

      • Droid says :

        It just reminded me of it when you called him a legendary asshole.

        And I love Spaceballs.

      • Droid says :

        I watched Conan the other night and will review it today if I get the chance.

      • Jarv says :

        I quite like Spaceballs, but always feel that it runs out of steam towards the last third.

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah I’ve got that spaceballs quote on my facebook wall.

      • koutchboom says :

        Naw Spaceballs is 100% all the way through.

  8. Jarv says :

    It’s just occurred to me that I may have been talking bollocks about the backmasking.

    I could have sworn that it happened in the film, but I watched it about a month ago and it may just be that the lyrics state it.

  9. Stuntcock Mike says :

    Billy Freidkin is a prick of epic proportions.

    I’d take a bullet for that psycho.

  10. koutchboom says :

    Also Jason Miller is the father of Jason Patrick (Speed Two and The Losers) and he is the NEW Preist, he is dead. Max Von Sydow being the OLD Preist and he is still alive. He has to be immortal?

    Also is there anything in that doc about Billy fucking with old Max?

    • Jarv says :

      Not really. I think the shotgun thing was Max.

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah well maybe if everyone else was as proffesional as Max Von Sydow, Freidkin wouldn’t have had to work so hard.

      • Jarv says :

        It isn’t that. I think it’s more that Friedkin was just a prick- he broke Burstyn’s Cocyx (sp?), and used shots in the film that had the most “genuine” reaction- including Burstyn screaming with pain at the cracked arsebone.

        He was just a prime out-of-control coked up cunt

      • koutchboom says :

        Line heard most on set:

        “If you mother fuckers were just half as good as Max then I wouldn’t have to be busting my ass to make a good fucking movie” SSSSSNNNNNIIIIIIFFFFFFFFFF

  11. Continentalop says :

    The only director who should be allowed to fire a live round with no one wearing ear protection is Sam Fuller, which he did in many a war movie because he wanted the actors to be jostled and nervous when the film started. Of course, they probably all had ear plugs or cotton in anyways because they were firing blanks during the scene, but Fuller gets a pass on using a live round.

    • Stuntcock Mike says :

      If you ever get a chance to see The Typewriter, The Gun and The Movie Camera, do so.

      • Continentalop says :

        Saw it before Mike. I think it was in that movie Fuller talks about how the only way to do a real war movie is to have a sniper up in the projectionist booth randomly taking pot shots at the audience.

  12. Continentalop says :

    I think I’m going to try and score some pixels for this weekend.

    • Jarv says :

      Not a bad idea. Pay day tomorrow.

      CGI for the win (Columbian gurning incense)

      Didn’t peckinpah fire live ammo on more than one occasion- and he shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near a gun.

  13. Continentalop says :

    He might have Jarv. I do know Peckinpah would show up to edit drunk, and one day he puked in a scene bin and the poor assistants had to take the film out and clean them.

  14. Continentalop says :

    People think Bay and Cameron are control freaks and assholes. Fuck, those guys don’t even compare to the freaks of the past like Friedkin and Peckinpah and Andre de Toth (who actually made an actor stick his head in a really functional guillotine).

  15. Tom_Bando says :

    Or John Ford, Howard Hawks and William Wellman. What was it (I forget who) that was said about Wellman? “Tough little bastard, used real bullets and such. I liked him.”

    Hawks was a real icy aloof piece of work. Ford you know about. Wellman was like Mikey Bay but had a sense of proportion and wasn’t a complete SOB. And of course there’s DeMille….

  16. xiphos0311 says :

    Peckipah and Fuller might be the only directors I would let near firearms since they both had extensive training.

    I guess Milius should be mentioned since he paid for extensive firearm training for himself.

    • Continentalop says :

      He was way before our time, but Merian C. Cooper (King Kong) would have to go on your list as well.

      And I guess Bill Tilghman (lawman) as well, because he did direct one movie.

  17. ThereWolf says :

    I remember loving The Gate, saw it just the once way, way back when it dropped onto VHS rental. I particularly recall the big demon shattering into all those little scampering demons – must’ve had that bit on rewind at least 20 times! I don’t think anyone had seen anything like that effect at the time, it just seemed like everyone who saw the movie raved about the tumbling demon bit.

    Can’t believe they’re on the remake trail with this as well.

  18. Stuntcock Mike says :

    That’s the one Conti.
    It also has Tarantino and Tim Robbins going through Fuller’s garage.

    “You’ll be looking around and suddenly something grabs your attention and POOOF, you must handle.”

  19. Continentalop says :

    Paul Schrader is my vote for the one you never want to give a loaded pistol to.

  20. herr milflover says :

    Stop motion vs cgi creatures are subject to the same ‘laws’: no matter how great looking the model is, it’s wasted if the animators do a shitty job with it, and excellent animation can make a less great model seem more convincing as well.

  21. herr milflover says :

    I dont think I’ve ever see all of The Gate, but the demon shattering into smaller ones is definitely familiar.

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