While clearly forged in the age of Spielberg and Dante, The Gate is easily one of the better attempts at achieving that ghoulish tone. From the evocative opening dream sequence – young Stephen Dorff wakes to find his house ransacked and abandoned – through to the barrage of physical effects which give the film’s more fantastic ideas flight, The Gate is more or less everything you’d want from this kind of thing.
It retains a childlike sense of wonder and excitement throughout with key totems emblematic of American youth – air rockets, metal LP’s – scattered about, often using those same totems as gateways into more madness. A downed treehouse, for example, gives birth to a portal to a demonic netherworld, here represented by purple light shining up through the ground, while elsewhere the leg of small doll is repurposed as a stabbing implement.
The special effects are awesome, combining stop motion effects with sculpted rubber latex infused ghouls, with some incredibly effective forced-perspective shots being particularly effective, to the point where I found myself scratching my head wondering how they were achieved. Like Gilliam’s Time Bandits, the film isn’t too protective of its young cast to get nasty either; where it counts, it puts a lot of effort into being genuinely scary. Imagine Joe Dante remixing Fulci’s The Beyond and you aren’t far off. I like it more than The Goonies. Wish I’d seen this as a wee lad.
Watched on Vestron blu-ray.