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The Gate


The Gate doesn't get the respect it deserves. So many 80's horror movies are now considered classics, and this one tends to just get overlooked. Maybe it's because it was rated PG-13, and had underage kids as the main characters. This means that it doesn't have the gore and boobs that most 80's horror reveled in. But this is a really fun movie that managed to be thrilling without the decapitations and coitus interruptus slaughter that most movies of the time relied so heavily on. Don't get me wrong, I love a good gore fest and I am a big fan of boobs, but this movie didn't need either of them to be enjoyable. Maybe it's because as a young metal fan myself when it came out I was able to identify with Terry. Maybe it's because I always enjoy a good yarn about people accidentally summoning the Old Gods back to earth. 

The movie starts with Glen having a nightmare.  This sets the mood for the whole movie, as you start out feeling a bit separated from reality. Glen finds a geode in his back yard after a work crew takes out a tree. His friend Terry is excited about this, because he thinks if they find more they can sell them and get a big payday. Little do they know they are excavating the doorway to the infernal dimensions where demons lie in wait to invade our world, which they once ruled over. Glen accidentally spills a drop of blood after getting a splinter and the fight for our world is on, even if no one quite realizes it yet.  Glen's sister sure doesn't know anything is up, as she takes advantage of her parents going out of town to have a party and try to get friendly with the boy she's got her eye on. The growing divide between Glen and his sister as she enters into puberty ahead of him is a major theme of the movie. They used to be close,  but now she'd rather go to the beach than shoot off model rockets with him. Except, when she sees how upset he is she ditches her friends to do just that.

Glen opens a geode the boys found in the back yard, and after it gives a little light show some strange writing appears on one of those magnetic drawings pads they used to sell at grocery stores in the toy aisle. (Are those still a thing? I haven't seen one in ages.) Of course Glen reads it, because who wouldn't read strange words that mysteriously wrote themselves? After that there are some big bugs, a levitation trick gone awry, and Terry seeing his dead mom who then turns into the family dog who also turns out to be dead. Once the dog gets chucked into the hell hole by a friend of Glen's big sister, the demons start to appear. Luckily for everyone Terry is a metal fan. One of his records lays out everything that is happening, and even explains how to banish the demons. I always wished my copy of Shout at the Devil would turn out to be as useful. One nice twist in an era that saw metal as being inherently evil, the band wasn't working to bring hell to earth, they were warning people and telling them how to stop it. Maybe if they had played for the other side they would have gone platinum instead of dying in a plane crash.

Parts of the movie feel akin to the Evil Dead franchise, for example the evil little demons and the eyeball that the big demon puts in Glen's hand to keep watch over him. The demons even combine to create a reanimated corpse that comes out of the wall of the house to drag kids off to the netherworld. There are a couple of moments when the kids think they have won, but the heavy metal banishing rituals and the Bible prove equally ineffective in putting the cork back into this satanic bottle.  In the end it is Glen's love for his sister and for model rockets that wins the day. The one drawback to the movie being PG-13 is the lack of body count. I would not have been averse to seeing some of the sister's annoying friends become demon snacks. But it is nice to have a fun horror movie that I can show the kids without worrying about traumatizing them too much. It serves as a nice bridge between the Universal and early Hammer movies, and the Friday the 13th's and Nightmare on Elm Streets that they are not quite ready for yet. It's not quite as good as Poltergeist (the big non-R rated horror movie of the decade) but it is still quite enjoyable in it's own right. The effects are decent for the time (I especially like the big demon at the end), the look is very 80's and is sure to induce nostalgia, and the acting and story are both pretty good.  This is one I definitely recommend revisiting, especially if you are looking for something to watch around Halloween that is somewhere between the graphicness of a slasher flick and the corniness of something like Hocus Pocus.

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