BEYOND THE GATES

PrintE-mail Written by James Evans

One of a recent (though admittedly small) wave of ‘80s horror homages (that includes the likes of Ted Geoghegan’s We Are Still Here) this tale of a VHS board game that opens the door to a nightmare world garnered some serious attention with its retro advertising.  Directed by Jackson Stewart, the obvious initial comparison is an adult Jumanji, but there are plenty of other influences thrown in here.

As the title suggest there’s Fulci in here (The Beyond) and 1987’s Canadian cult flick The Gate.  More than just horror movies, however, Beyond the Gates spreads its inspirations wide and there are elements of numerous ‘80s cultural road marks in the construction. You could put Clue in the mix, as well as inevitably the early ‘90s Atmosfear games like Nightmare amongst others.

When two brothers John and Gordon (bonded by blood and little else, opposite as they are) are brought together again to shut down and sell on the stock from their missing father’s video store (all VHS, of course) a chance discovery leads them to suspect the titular game might unravel the mystery of daddy’s disappearance.  Once they start, their very lives depend on finishing it.  Barbara Crampton here plays the host of the video’s segments that lead the brothers on.

It can be fun recognising the influences and call-backs to films and culture we know and love, but that’s not enough to make a film its own thing.  So, putting all that aside, does Beyond the Gates stand up as more than the sum of its parts?

We’re happy to report the answer is a yes, though with some caveats. After an initial none-more-‘80s credits sequence that suggests full blown pastiche it settles down into concentrating on producing atmosphere.  Rather than going for lazy, repetitive jump scares Stewart instead earns a nightmare mood that makes a few gory set pieces all the more effective. The two brothers have little in common but both writing and performances seek to give enough history and a sense of a real relationship between them to invest an audience and in that it’s successful. Barbara Crampton is only seen on a TV screen throughout but that just reinforces the charisma of her performance.

On the other hand, there’s little sense of jeopardy or danger in the game or the stakes in the film.  The creepy shop the brothers’ visit seems to come from something else entirely, Jesse Merlin’s Elric coming across more as a proprietor of a local shop for local people than the film he’s in. Whilst it works overall, there’s no real comparison between the intense, circular nightmare of the Fulci film and Beyond the Gates.

In fairness, however, it's not only attempting straight homage. This is filmmakers setting out to make an update of the films they grew up with, and as that, it’s certainly entertaining. As a feature length calling card for Stewart, it suggests there’s better yet to come from him and overall it’s time well spent.

BEYOND THE GATES / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: JACKSON STEWART / SCREENPLAY: STEPHEN SCARLATA, JACKSON STEWART / RELEASE DATE: BARBARA CRAMPTON, BREA GRANT, RYAN KUNERT, SARA MALAKUL LANE / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 20TH


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