Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Dorff’

The Gate (1987)

October 2, 2019

Rated PG-13 for fantasy horror, existential dread, and stop-motion creepiness.

I am the oldest brother out of three brothers and I was born in the 1980s. This means that I lived through a time where it was not out of the ordinary for parents to leave their kids alone in the home. As the oldest, I was in charge and given the responsibility to keep the younger ones safe. I mean, they were only four and five years younger than me so it did not take much. We either watched television together or we went our separate ways since there was more than one television and three floors to our house. I never once threw a party when my parents were out. However, we did have rules. The doors were to remain locked and the phone was not really supposed to be answered. If we did answer the phone, we were to say our mother was in the shower. It could be a little spooky if I was alone. Not in a child abuse kind of way but in a thrilling, nervous energy kind of way. It was these moments that taught me how to live alone and be completely comfortable with it.

When you are a kid, it is really easy to imagine very scary things. Every shadow is an excuse to make up stories about monsters. Every cave in the wilderness is the home of a big bear or even a troll. I soaked in stories and imagined so many creepy crawlies especially in the wilderness. I was born a city boy and I have spent over two-thirds of my life in that same city. So those scraps of nature were always magical to me. Nature was for dreaming. I used to walk along the stream that wound through the city along the path from school to home and imagine so many things. I especially remember thinking up so many things out in Oregon Ridge Park near where my friend Arthur lived. He lived in an entirely different world that I eventually moved to myself after college. Now I am back in the city and I still take walks through Druid Hill Park and daydream. Of course, I never imagined anything really sinister and scary. I imagined fairies, vaguely dangerous animals, and mythical creatures.

My first impression of the movie is that it has the same kid-friendly creepy trippiness that I felt from watching Invaders from Mars. This was the time of horror where practical effects had been perfected and digital effects were really just beginning. The movie does a lot with costuming and forced perspective, things that would later be used in the same way in the Lord of the Rings franchise. I can clearly see great effects which were used later in stuff like Stranger Things and the Elm Street franchise. I can see great parallels to other gateway horror classics like Monster Squad, Fright Night, and even Gremlins. I love the character design of the creatures both in costume form and in the creepier stop motion form. I love stop motion animation so much, though, and it is used to great effect in this movie. The story is great for what it is, tapping into a lot of real childhood fears and mixing those with supernatural fears. Having precocious kids and teenagers facing off against the supernatural horrors is always fun. Moreover, everybody is perfectly reasonable in their actions based on what they know at the time. None of that silly genre-inflicted stupidity.

This is Stephen Dorff’s first movie released in theaters at age 14 but you would hardly know it. For a child actor, he is already on top of his game as the precocious, nerdy little brother who just wants a little respect. It is clear why he is still acting if he was this good early on. Louis Tripp plays his best friend, a troubled but good-natured odd duck kid who is obsessed with heavy metal and the occult. He is a lot of fun and reminds me of some of the misfits I grew up with. Christa Denton is great at the older sister who used to be a tomboy but is now trying to grow into her feminity in order to fit in with her friends. She cares for her little brother but also does not want to look bad. The rest of the cast is filled in with Christa’s assorted friends who are a little more cold-hearted and immature than she is. They are a band of teens that a lot of good horror movies need.

Overall, I really loved this movie. I usually try to start off Halloween with a gateway horror film, something for people to watch with their families. I got this one off of a listicle on Bloody Disgusting and I am glad I did. I have not heard much buzz about this movie and I was unlikely to hear anything as it was not a franchise and came out over thirty years ago. I am so happy to find weird cult classic films like this because I feel like I am making this month extra special. I definitely recommend it and it is not so scary that preteens have to be escorted out of the room.

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