A baffling slice of fantasy and would-be horror, The Gatehouse tells of young Eternity, a 10-year old girl living in an old gatehouse at the edge of a forest with her dad Jack. Both are still mourning the loss of Eternity’s mother and Jack, an unemployed writer, is not doing very well at being a father. Eternity likes to roam the forest digging for treasure, and one day digs up something she should have left buried. Meanwhile, Jack manages to get a gig finishing a book about the legend of some black flowers that sent the author mad and drove him to his death. Both threads link together as ghosts from the past, a god of the forest, and some mundanely evil humanity builds to its conclusion.
It’s baffling principally because it’s difficult to know who The Gatehouse is made for. The majority of the film could easily pass for a made-for-kids fantasy were it not for occasional moments of gore and swearing and as a consequence, it’s unlikely to satisfy for either youngsters or adults. Jack, as played by Simeon Willis, is an almighty knob and an irritating lead. It’s difficult to grasp though whether that’s down to Willis or because Jack is emblematic of much of the problems this film has. Jack is inconsistently written and seems like he could be in totally different films from one scene to the next. So too, with the film itself. Broad comedy mixes with attempts at scares that just don’t work together. Perhaps as a consequence, the tone and many of the performances are all over the place.
But it’s not a total loss, however. Writer Martin Gooch is also the director and here he occasionally shows more control of his material. The film was shot in beautiful countryside and Gooch doesn’t miss out on taking advantage of this. It might be made for naff all but when you point a camera at nature you don’t need money to make it look good. Scarlett Rayner, as Eternity, should be annoying as they come with screen kids but she does a nice job of not making you wish a monster would just get on with it and kill her off. That inconsistent tone and handling of the material also manages to make the last half hour or so a not-entertaining-for-the-right-reasons parade of WTF-ery that is bizarrely charming.
It's a genuine oddity and, misdirected and stuffed full of overripe gothic fantasy cliché, is in no way good or something you need in your life. Equally though, it’s oddly naïve and sweet-natured overall and is simply difficult to dislike.
THE GATEHOUSE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: MARTIN GOOCH / STARRING: SCARLETT RAYNER, SIMEON WILLIS, LINAL HAFT / RELEASE DATE: TBC