The Gate (1987)

I love movies with lots of little creatures raising havoc.  The Gate has always been one of my favorites, both because Tibor Takács has some tricks up his sleeve when it comes to directing the film and because the effects themselves still hold up after all these years.  Combine that with characters that one actually cares about and a great performance by a young Stephen Dorff in the lead and this ends up being a film that, when I see it's on, I end up sitting through the whole thing even though I have seen it many times over the years.

Glen (Dorff) is a young kid with a teenage sister named Al (Christa Denton) and a best friend named Terry (Louis Tripp).  The trouble begins when an old tree is removed in Glen's backyard.  Investigating the hole he finds a geode and, with Terry's help, finds an even bigger one that glows inside.  His father makes him fill the hole in before the parents leave for a trip, leaving Al in charge, who decides to use her responsibility to throw a party.  At one point a few of the guests attempt levitating Glen, with positive but frightening results.

Terry soon realizes what is going on while listening to an album by the heavy metal band Sacrifyx, the record of which contains a printing of The Dark Book, which they got the lyrics from.  It turns out playing the album forward summons ancient demons, while backwards gives the spells to cast them away.  As strange things are happening the boys attempt to do so, but when the family dog dies one of Al's friends buries him in the hole, completing the sacrifice that is needed and unleashing hundreds of minions upon the home.  Glen, who is at the center of everything, must find a way to banish the creatures before they take over the Earth. 

Written by Michael Nankin, The Gate is one of the many '80s horror films that did better on cable and video than it did in the theaters.  It has its slow spots, but the build-up is worth it once the minions and the big boss show up.  It is kind of like Poltergeist in that it saves almost everything for the end instead of overloading its audience early on.  It is also told from a child's point of view with no adults around to help out, at times giving a sense of hopelessness as Glen was never prepared to deal with fighting demons.

Louis Tripp is quite memorable as Terry and Christa Denton, as Al, helps out unlike most teenage heroines outside of slasher films.  Add a clever script and some good directing and one has a movie worth revisiting down the years.

The Gate (1987)
Time: 85 minutes
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Christa Denton, Louis Tripp
Director: Tibor Takács



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