Released by: Vestron Video/Lionsgate Entertainment
Released on: February 28th, 2017.
Director: Tibor Takács
Cast: Stephen Dorff, Christa Denton, Louis Tripp
Year: 1987 Purchase From Amazon
The Gate, directed by Tibor Takács and shot in and around Toronto, Ontario, begins when a big old tree is removed from the backyard of a home belonging to a boy named Glen (Stephen Dorff) and his family. When the tree is pulled up, there’s an unusually large and strangely colorful hole underneath. Glen and his heavy metal obsessed friend Terry (Louis Tripp) – whose room is decorated with Iron Maiden posters and a pretty bad ass ‘Off The Bone’ Cramps poster - find a large geode inside and take it into the house. Glen’s parents see that it is boarded up and then they take off for a few days, leaving him alone with his older sister Al (Christa Denton). When Al throws a party, Glenn and Terry find some strange writing on a note, and shortly after they read it out loud Glenn levitates.
Strange things are clearly afoot.
Meanwhile, Terry (Louis Tripp) is obsessed with an album his dad brought back from Europe that also includes pages from ’The Dark Book’ inside its sleeve. He reads the words aloud and plays the record backwards around the same time that Glen’s dog, Angus, is hit and killed. Strange things seem to now live in the wall of the house and that hole in the backyard, something is up with it. Al decides to bury the dog in the hole in the backyard, and shortly thereafter all Hell literally breaks loose. Glen and Al’s parents return in demonic from and some short but dangerous denizens of Hell known as ‘Minions’ start wreaking havoc while looking for the blood sacrifice needed to bring about the return of the Old Gods…
Horror pictures that rely on younger actors often times stumble with the quality of their performances, but The Gate comes out strong in this regard too. Stephen Dorff, long before he’d go on to star in a few Hollywood blockbusters and then later a whole lot of e-cigarette commercials, is quite good as one of the leads. Louis Tripp upstages him, however, as the nerdy metal kid. Strutting about in a denim jacket with a Killer Dwarfs backpatch and some big, dorky glasses he’s completely believable as Glens’ right hand man and a complete blast to watch here. Christa Denton’s performance isn’t quite as fun as the other two simply because her character isn’t as quirky, but she too is also quite good in her part. The three young actors make a great team here.
The Gate is simultaneously timeless and ridiculously dated. It’s timeless in that it deftly taps into childhood fears about things that go bump in the night, and ridiculously dated in that it’s very much ‘of the eighties’ in how it uses the whole ‘Satanic Panic’ and backwards masking phenomena as the impetus for the evil that the kids have to deal with. Oddly enough, for a movie that is as ridiculous as The Gate is, it works very well. The effects and forced perspective camerawork used to bring the Minions and the other creatures to life have a very strong Ray Harryhausen vibe to them but they’re a big part of what makes the movie so much fun to watch. The creature effects and costumes, and some of the medium strength gore effects featured in the PG-13 picture, are creative, inspired and effective. The movie is also quick in its pace and benefits from a fine score courtesy of Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson. The suburban Canadian locations are the perfect setting for the film, as at first glance they appear completely normal – harmless even – rather than ripe for exploitation b demonic elements.
The Gate looks quite good on Blu-ray, presented on a 50GB disc in 1.85.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. There are some small white specks evident throughout the movie if you’re looking for them but they’re never distracting and they really are pretty insignificant. Colors look quite nice here, particularly during the scenes with the geode and when the eerie light comes out of the hole in the backyard, while flesh tones and black levels are strong. There are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts or edge enhancement nor are there any instances of heavy noise reduction. All in all, this is a very nice upgrade over the previous DVD release (which didn’t look so hot).
The only audio option for the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track, though subtitles are provided in English and Spanish. There’s some pretty distinct channel separation evident throughout the movie, while dialogue stays clean, clear and easily discernible. The score has good strength behind it as do the various sound effects used throughout the movie. Hiss and distortion are never an issue and the tracks features good clarity and range.
Extras start off with an audio commentary featuring director Tibor Takács, writer Michael Nankin and special effects designer/supervisor Randall William Cook. This is an active track (save for a few spots where they clam up temporarily) with a lot of detail in it, covering the early stages of pre-production, the writing process, the effects work and loads more. It’s a fairly scene specific talk, starting off by talking about the use of some fairly plain credits, what was shot on a set versus what was shot on location at a real suburban house, elements of foreshadowing in the picture, what happened to the dog in the original script, the urban legend of the workman in the wall, elements from Nankin’s own childhood that turned up in the movie, how in a lot of ways kids are tougher than grownups and quite a bit more. A second commentary sees Cook joins forces with SFX makeup artist Craig Reardon, SFX artist Frank Carere and matte photographer/VFX guy Bill Taylor. As you might guess, this one is a bit more technical in what it covers. There’s a lot of discussion about the look of the movie, lots of stories about what it took to get the effects work done properly for the film and more. This is, as Cook puts it, a ‘rather freewheeling’ track rather than a scene specific one but each of the contributors has some interesting stories to tell about their work on the film. The disc also contains an Isolated Score Selections option that is piggybacked onto an audio interview with composers Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson moderated by Michael Felsher. The composers are interviewed individually and they are quite interesting. Flesher gives us background information on each one before he speaks to them, and we learn about their work on The Gate as well as their various other projects, influences, thoughts on film composition work and loads more. The interviews take up about thirty-five minutes and after that, the isolated score plays out.
Moving along to the featurettes, we find The Gate: Unlocked, a lengthy twenty-eight minute piece that is essentially made up of an interview with Takács and Cook who sit in front of a mixing board in a studio and are clearly enjoying themselves reminiscing about making the film. This covers a fair bit of the same ground as the commentary tracks do but it also covers some separate ground. They talk about how they came to work together after being introduced by the model maker for Close Encounters, their thoughts on horror movies in general and how they tried to do something different with The Gate, approaching the horror elements in the film from the perspective of the kids in the movie, effects work, the screening of his original director’s cut of the movie and plenty more. There’s some cool behind the scenes footage used in here and a few pertinent clips from the film itself, but it’s primarily an interview piece (and a fun, interesting one at that).
Up next is Minion Maker, a fascinating interview with Craig Reardon wherein he spends twenty-two minutes talking about his work on the movie. He talks about working on the movie after meeting Cook, some of the other people that he worked with behind the scenes, how he was quite interested in the movie after hearing about the story, what it was like working in Canada, how he wound up being brought on board the picture in the first place, its ties to The Fly II, how he prepared for the shoot and the effects-heavy scenes that are such an important part of the picture and more. There are some interesting behind the scenes pictures used throughout this piece that are neat to see, and Reardon looks back on his work here with a lot of insight.
From Hell It Came is an interview with co-producer Andras Hamori that runs just over thirteen minutes. He talks about getting his start as a film critic in Hungary before then moving into producing pictures after leaving Hungary and moving to Canada to work in the TV industry. From there, he talks about producing his first feature film, which was The Gate. He then talks about working with Alliance, the benefits of the Canadian tax shelter program of the time, bringing American participants onboard, what he learned producing his first film, targeting the picture to a younger audience and other related topics. Again, there are some behind the scenes stills and clips from the picture used throughout this piece to keep it visually interesting.
The Workman Speaks! gets Carl Kraines in front of the camera to talk about his character for twelve minutes. He starts off by talking about how he wound up in Toronto, meeting Takács as a friend before collaborating with him on this film and how Takács brought him on board to play the Workman. He then talks about the makeup that was used for his famous scene, how long a process it was, working with the other younger cast members that headline the picture, trying to disguise the Canadian accents of certain characters and the difficulties of having to burst through a wall in full makeup and two lungs full of cigarette smoke.
Made In Canada is a twenty-eight minute long featurette made up of a series of interviews with a host of Toronto-based cast and crew members such as production manager Robert Wertheimer, costume designer Trysha Bakker, third assistant director Kathleen Meade, ''Minion'' performer Jonathan Llyr, actor Scot Denton, and post-production supervisor H. Gordon Woodside. All of these interviews were conducted in November of 2016. There’s talk here of the tax shelter program, how the film industry in Toronto at the time was more of a cottage industry than the industry that it is now, what it was like working as an actor in the picture, the tricks involved in playing a Minion in the movie and the costumes that were involved for those performers, thoughts on the quality of the lead performers’ work, difficulties of the film’s shooting schedule, the quality of the effects and cinematography and more. There are a lot of fun anecdotes about what it was like working on the picture as well as some great behind the scenes photos showing off the effects pieces, the studio/soundstage setup and lots more.
From Hell: The Creatures & Demons of The Gate gets Randall William Cook and Craig Reardon nailed down to offer up yet more info on making the monsters that appear in the movie. Over the course of fifteen minutes we hear about how fun it was to work on the huge cavernous sets constructed for the picture, the forced perspective photography to make the Minions the proper size, the work load that was required for designing and supervising the effects work, the importance of having enough pre-production time to ensure a good shoot, the fun vibe that existed on set, the creative freedom they were afforded during the making of the film and loads more.
The Gatekeepers is a sixteen minute interview with Takács and Nankin wherein they talk about the writing process for the picture and trying to write personally, the familiarity inherent in the story, how Nankin came to write the movie in the first place after suffering a bit of a defeat earlier when a project he was involved in failed, how the movie turned out to be much more ‘family friendly’ than Nankin’s original treatment, who the characters were based on, how the two got along really well while working on the film, the casting process for the picture, working with kids on the movie and more. Also on hand is a vintage featurette called The Making Of The Gate, a twenty-three minute EPK style piece sourced from an old tape that features a load of clips from the film as well as interviews with Nankin and Cook.
Rounding out the extras are a teaser trailer, a theatrical trailer, a TV spot, an extensive storyboard gallery, an interesting behind-the-scenes still gallery, animated menus and chapter selection. Like all of the titles in Lionsgate’s Vestron Video line so far, the Blu-ray disc is housed inside an eco-case that in turn fits inside a foil embossed slipcover.
The Final Word:
The Gate holds up remarkably well, while at the same time clearly remaining a very definite product of its time. Vestron’s Blu-ray release is a good one, presenting this cult classic in great shape and absolutely stacked with extra features.
Click on the image below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!