Hello and Konbanwa peeps, and welcome to the much-anticipated, newest installment of FFS. I again thank you all for your continued support!!
If you ever needed a prime example of how a film could flop so bad on the big screen, but stay afloat due to its completely opposite affect on subsequent rental/purchase sales and cult favoritism, look no further than The Gate.
This quite underrated Canadian horror/thriller had a pathetic budget, lasted less than two weeks in theaters, and even earned less in ticket sales than the infamous film Ishtar, released that same year and cited as the biggest box-office flop in history.
Even so, don't let that sway you in the least - The Gate ended up more than tripling its production and marketing costs within one week of rental release, becoming a cult classic of the genre in lightning-fast speed.
Instantly negating any prior critiques, the film wowed audiences with it's surprisingly impressive creature effects, excellent plot line, uber-spooky soundtrack (including a tune by 80's fantasy favorite artists Tangerine Dream), and unbelievable atmosphere the likes of which still remains a rarity in horror/thriller films almost a quarter-century later.
They say the very best comes from experience, and that rings true here. A little-known fact, the whole idea behind The Gate sprung from a real-life encounter Screenwriter Michael Nankin had with an evil, disembodied voice.
This hellish insight, paired with genius directing, is not only what has kept this film among my top faves since childhood, but also makes it clear why Director Tibor Takacs is considered "the Canadian Spielberg".
Glen (Stephen Dorff, in his debut film role) rides his bike home and finds it deserted. A lover of model rockets, he notices the mother of all kits, for the Thunderbolt, halfway assembled in his room. The TV turns on suddenly, and he stares for a moment before hearing a noise outside.
Suddenly pitch-black out, he climbs up to his tree house to find a baby doll crying "mama", which causes him to break down. Suddenly, a lightning bolt hits the tree, and he comes crashing down...
And wakes up from the nightmare. A precursor of things to come? Symbolism? You're damn straight.
Men are at work in the backyard, uprooting the same tree from Glen's dream. Going outside to watch, he sees a strange rock embedded in the roots. It's a geode, or hollow rock filled with beautiful crystals, thanks to the right pressure and time.
One other thing captures his eye - from where the tree was uprooted, remains a super-deep hole. Odd, although the workers don't seem to find it anomalous.
After the work is done and the hole is covered, Glen brings his friend Terry (Louis Tripp) over to dig at it in the search for more of the precious rocks. But something's just not right... a strange smell emanates from the depths. Then the boys find a massive geode just as Glen gets a major sliver and tosses the bloody stick into the hole, where a strange laughter is heard from below. Also, a swarm of weird moths fly out, which Terry captures and places in a jar.
That night at dinner, Glen, his parents, and older sister Al (Christa Denton) are arguing over who's going to babysit while the folks are out for the weekend. Reluctantly, it's agreed Al will be given a shot at taking care of things, although Glen is grounded for ruining the men's work.
But Glen is uneasy about being left at home without his mom and dad. Before bed, he tells his father the hole bothers him, and about a story Terry told him, regarding a workman who died during construction of their home, and was subsequently buried into one of the walls. It's here we learn Terry isn't considered very trustworthy, seeing as how he's just a young kid who's mother died a year before, and whose father is constantly out on business.
Feeling better, Glen drifts off to sleep. Within the bug jar, the moth fluttering inside disappears.
As Mom and Dad leave the next day, they warn Al not to have any parties. So of course, a major one is in order, while Glen and Terry bust open the geode upstairs. They use a hammer to crack it, and a strange light and mist rises from within. It also seemed to have left strange markings on Glen's tablet, which the boys read aloud in unison - resulting in a strange effect from the hole outside...
They go downstairs to try to get in on some of the fun the teenagers are having in living room, and find they've lighted candles and are gathering for some scary ghost stories. They listen as one girl gets the group going on spiritual concentration and levitation, in a sort of "light as a feather, stiff as a board" fashion.
Noticing Glen, the boy Al has a crush on, Eric, wants to use him for their game. And not only do they lift him with ease, but find he floats from their hands and through the air, crashing into a light fixture before running upstairs in terror. It takes both Al and Terry's efforts to get him to exit his room.
Later that night, as Terry sleeps over, he awakes to make a trip to the can. On his way back, a strange light and breeze grabs his attention, and looking to the doorway, he sees his mother. Arms outstretched, she calls to him, proclaiming her love and embracing Terry.
In the meantime, Glen is left alone to deal with the strange moths, having been woken up by them swarming his windows and the bug zapper below. On top of that, something seems to be pressing in through his walls!
But Terry would be oblivious to everything, as he hugs his mother in the house's entryway, only to look upon her face to find he's holding the dead carcass of Angus, Glen's elderly pet sheepdog!!
The next morning, Terry heads home to an empty house while Al has Eric and the Lee sisters over to plan a day at the beach. Glen tries to bring up the events of the previous evening, but just gets bullshit from the teens seemingly more immature than anyone his age. With calling the folks out of the question, Al reluctantly goes along with the sisters, leaving Eric to take Angus to the shelter, and poor Glen flipping through doggy scrapbooks.
Meanwhile, Terry's rockin' out to one of the metal records his father had picked up for him in Europe, when suddenly, in the middle of an in-album monologue, something hits him.
The singer outlines a myth of sorts, consisting of a legion of dark Lords who once ruled the universe. Then came light, substance, and man, and the old Gods were nearly forgotten. Jealous and enraged at the world of light man exists within, they've spent thousands of years planning humanity's destruction. Also according to this band Sacrifyx, an Earthly passageway exists, separating our realm from theirs.
Examining the album's design and booklet, Terry finds drawings of demonic creatures holding orbs, and even scarier, symbols exactly like those the geode left on Glen's tablet.
He runs back to Glen's, where he's taken to the backyard to discover the hole has busted open even wider. Taking his friend back to his house, he explains all about the links between the strange occurrences and what's outlined within the album, along with the fact the band members themselves died in a plane crash.
The only piece missing from the puzzle, in getting the demon Lords invited to Earth, is for a sacrifice to be offered into the hole...
And guess who comes by the house with a dead dog, looking to find a way to get rid of its carcass? Eric sees the hole over the backyard fence, and disposes of Angus without even leaving a note, thanks to the dickhead finding the shelter closed and wanting to catch up with his friends at the beach.
Since Terry learns that playing the record backwards reveals a speech for closing the gate, they return to Glen's to perform the rites. They're soon met by Al, who had returned to cheer up Glen by bringing him a new rocket. As Terry continues to read through the album booklet, he outlines the methods the demon Lords will use to solidify their Hell on Earth, including two human sacrifices. The only way to cast out the presence at that point, would be a "force of energy derived from love and light".
...but it's too late now, as the three are about to find everything "goes to Hell", and quick...
The Lee sisters arrive to stay the night with Al, with Terry crashing in Glen's room. Waking in the middle of the night, Glen is shocked to notice the bug zapper he had unplugged earlier is sparking again, and hundreds of moths crash through the window to torment him.
Getting his sister, she returns with him to check out the damage, as well as try to rouse Terry, only tossing under the blanket. When he suddenly shows up behind them, the siblings pull down the covers to reveal Angus's corpse! Slimy inhuman hands then shoot out from under the bed, and the three just barely make it out alive.
Joined by the Lee sisters, they run downstairs and out the front door to meet Glen and Al's parents, just standing silently on the front walk.
Glen tries to embrace his father, but the man takes on a demonic voice, telling his son he's "been bad" and chokes him. The rest look on in horror as Glen's hands go right through the man's face, causing the head to fall off and splat to the ground. Checking the window after getting Glen back inside, the faux folks have vanished.
The power goes out and all doors slam shut. They try the back door, with Al going out alone to check around. The Lee sisters open a window shade, where a tiny demon minion creature stands, just staring at them. Multitudes of the things swarm around Al's feet outside, and she runs back in at the boys' insistence, not having noticed the buggers.
One of the thing's arms is stuck in the door, which explodes into a number of worms that crawl back out. One of the Lee sisters faints, and just as Al is suggesting they call police, the phone rings, of course...
It's the same demonic voice from fake Dad, followed by the receiver bursting into flames and the phone fuckin' MELTING.
Needless to say, no one is doubting Terry's explanation of demons anymore. He demands they close the gate, all walking together into the basement to retrieve the Sacrifyx album in order to speak the rites. No one but Glen notices that even the family photos have been warped, with people lying dead and bloody.
Unfortunately, the album bursts into flames and is reduced to ash as soon as they locate it. All seems lost, until Glen suggests they use a Bible.
The Lee sisters seem to be useful after all, locating a passage often used to ward off evil from an individual or area. They venture outside, where sure enough, Terry's recitation has a wonderful effect, until he gets too close and falls right into the gate!
He's immediately accosted by a bunch of tiny demon minions, which bite and pull at him. Al and Glen use their old swing to pull him out, and Terry loses his shoe in the process. Picking up the Bible again, he gets understandably frustrated and throws the whole thing into the gate, which instantly closes with an explosion of flames and sparks.
With the hole closed, the three cheer before running back into the house, where power is back on and the Lee sisters are found hiding in a closet, decked out in preparation for vampires.
A bunch of guys that the Lee sisters invited show up, and of course, Al's not in the mood. After telling them all to take off, she and the boys prepare to get some much-needed rest.
Though none of them could've guessed the hellish events were just beginning.
In the basement, Glen and Terry are messing with the geode, when suddenly, the wall crashes down to reveal a mummified carpenter. It's the buried workman Glen's been scared of - except, Terry then reveals he made the whole thing up...
It's another minion sent to capture the two human sacrifices! The workman comes to life, grabbing Terry and pulling him into the wall after a futile struggle. By the time Glen musters up the courage to go after his friend, the drywall has returned to normal.
Now bloody symbols are all over the wall by the stairway, and Glen rushes to his sister's room in time to see the workman crash through her mirror. She smashes his skull with a boombox, where he falls to the floor, breaking into more of the tiny demon minions.
Holding the door shut on them, Al sends Glen to the downstairs hall closet, where Dad keeps his shotgun. In his frantic search, he isn't prepared for Terry, or his likeness, to pop out of a coat bag and chomp on his hand.
Al has no choice but to leave the bedroom door and race to Glen's aid, where she uses an old Barbie doll to stab "Terry" in the eye. Whatever it was disappears, and the two notice it's too quiet - looking upstairs, the tiny demon minions are out, staring right down at them!
The siblings fumble for shells as they try to keep the closet doors shut, but soon, the little creatures disappear, and all is quiet.
A bit too quiet. The workman suddenly appears again, throwing Glen across the entryway and making off with Al, the second human sacrifice. Now Glen is left alone in the house, and finds an old drawing of the Thunderbolt, where it clicks that he could use the massive model rocket as his "energy derived from love and light".
The floorboards start to give way then, revealing a huge gate from which something starts to arise from the far depths. Glen makes his way to his closet, where he locates the Thunderbolt, but has no time to set it up before the huge Demon Lord shows up. It blocks his escape and studies him for a moment, before patting his head and cursing him with an eye in his palm, leaving then for its realm below.
Glen watches through the window as the darkness spills out from the gate and into the sky. He finds the same baby doll from his nightmare, before yelling out for the evil forces to take his life instead.
When no answer comes, he grabs a shard of glass from the broken window and stabs the eye within his palm, much to its wide-eyed horror.
Immediately, from within the depths of the giant gate in the entryway, rises the Demon Lord again, severely pissed off. Glen takes what little time he has to set up the Thunderbolt, and can even hear Al and Terry calling for him from below. Wasting no time, Glen launches the rocket straight through the thing's chest, causing it to explode in a burst of light.
The sky mist breaks, the evil is gone, and from the closet emerges Al and Terry, disoriented but o.k. - and they're joined by Angus!
The trio sits on the front steps, surveying the damage the night's events have caused, not caring - but happily ready to accept - any Earthly consequences that may come about.
At the site of the now permanently sealed gate in the backyard, Angus sniffs out Terry's lost sneaker, where a new sapling has magically emerged.
film (c) 1987 New Century Entertainment Corp., the Vista Org., Alliance Ent.