Thursday, October 11, 2012
What a trip. The Gate was the kind of movie that was always on HBO when I was a kid, that I ended up watching many times, often in scattered bits and pieces. I loved it at the time, and still had fond memories of it 20 years later. But if you had asked me if it was actually a good movie, I would have shrugged and said probably not, I just liked it when I was a kid. After all, I enjoyed a lot of crap back then.
Turns out, it holds up. In fact, being older and having a more knowledgable/critical eye towards film, I may even like it more now that I am able to appreciate the craft. The Gate is one of those high spirited, 80's special effects-o-ramas, pitched somewhere between Poltergeist and The Goonies. The overall tone is fun and adventure-y, but like the best horror aimed at children it doesn't fully hold back and allows some real darkness, intensity and weirdness. Kids movies often pussyfoot around scary stuff, but I've always believed that most kids like being scared. When you're young, the world is a big and mysterious place that you can't fully wrap your brain around, and movies like The Gate tap into those feelings and help you process them. Most kids don't end up loving horror movies the same way I do, but I suspect the reason movies like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory continue to endure is because kids respond to the darkness in them.
The director also did the pretty fun I, Madman, but I think his colorful, playful style is not as well suited to more adult-oriented fare. I, Madman was supposed to feel more like an old Lovecraft story or something, but ended up coming off more like a comic book. The comic book vibe is perfect for The Gate, which presents a world that, while full of dark and scary monsters, is also one where the good guys (with the help of a little pluck) will make it out okay in the end.
Almost forgot: check out Mr. Subtlety's take here.