Mario Bava's Black Sunday (1960)

Mario Bava's Black Sabbath (1963)

Mario Bava's The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace (1964)

Mario Bava's Kill Baby, Kill (1966)

Sergio Martino's The Case of the Scorpion's Tail (1971)

Luciano Ercoli's Death Walks on High Heels (1971)

Duccio Tessari's The Bloodstained Butterfly (1971)

Emilio Miraglia's The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971)

Peter Newbrook's The Asphyx (1972)

Luciano Ercoli's Death Walks at Midnight (1972)

Richard Friedman's Doom Asylum (1972)

Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left (1972)

Emilio Miraglia's The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972)

Sergio Martino's Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)

Sergio Martino's Torso (1973)

Alfred Sole's Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

Lucio Fulci's Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)

Lucio Fulci's The Black Cat (1981)

Juan Piquer Simón's Pieces (1982)

Harry Bromley Davenport's Xtro (1982)

Wayne Berwick's Microwave Massacre (1983)

Joseph S. Cardone's The Slayer (1982)

Stephen King's Firestarter (1984)

Buddy Cooper's The Mutilator (1984)

Larry Stewart's The Initiation (1984)

Steve Miner's House (1985)

Tibor Takacs The Gate (1987)

Ethan Wiley's House II: The Second Story (1987)

Frank Henenlotter's Brain Damage (1988)

Ken Russell’s The Lair of the White Worm (1988)

Juan Piquer Simon's Slugs (1988)

James Isaac's The Horror Show (1989)

Wes Craven's The People Under the Stairs (1991)

Lewis Abernathy's House IV The Repossession (1992)

Anders Jacobsson's Evil Ed (1995)

Wes Craven's Mind Ripper (1995)

Robert Kurtzman’s Wishmaster (1997)

Tibor Takács The Gate (1987) Blu-ray Review

The Gate (1987) on IMDb

In a time before the earth, before the sun and before the light and the stars, when all that was darkness and chaos; the Old Gods, the Forgotten Gods ruled the darkness and what was once theirs now belonged to the world of Light and Substance. The Old Gods, the rightful masters are jealous, watching mankind with a hatred that remains as boundless as the stars. The plans for the destruction of man are beyond imagining but there is a passageway between our physical earth and their spiritual world of madness and pain; a gate behind which the demons wait for the chance to take back what is rightfully theirs...

The period between 1984 and 1987 was something of a golden generation for the genres of horror, science fiction and fantasy, Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th franchise was reaching its final chapter in April 1984, whilst June of that year saw the release of Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters and Joe Dante’s Gremlins; Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, featuring Robert Englund as the delightful and yet deranged Freddy Krueger, was released in November 1984, spawning several sequels throughout the latter stages of the decade. TriStar Pictures released Charles E. Sellier’s Silent Night, Deadly Night during the same month, paving the way for the “Holiday Horror” pictures that would quickly follow and saturate the market. Other notable horror films released during these golden years would include Luca Bercovici’s “Ghoulies”, where Peter Liapis’s character Jonathan Graves has to do battle with miniature demonic forces after he conjures them up, hoping to gain otherworldly supernatural powers; the film, which was originally called “Beasties”, was released in March 1985.

A month later, Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye was released into cinemas; helmed by Lewis Teague, Cat’s Eye was an anthology of three different tales that follow the adventures of a tabby cat. The segment that interests us is called “General”, and sees the previously aforementioned tabby going to war with a small, malevolent troll that has resided in the home of a young girl, Amanda, played by Drew Barrymore; eventually, “General” wins out and is allowed to stay in the family home, much to Amanda’s relief and delight. August 1985 saw the release of Tom Holland’s Fright Night, in which he made his directorial debut and sees teenager Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) and his misfit group of friends battle wits with Jerry Dandrige, who he suspects of being a Vampire. Dan O'Bannon’s “Return of the Living Dead” also saw its cinematic debut in August 1985, and tells the tale of Freddy Hanscom (Thom Matthews) who starts working in a medical supply warehouse in Louisville, Kentucky, and after being shown the ropes by the extremely talented and very funny double act of Clu Gulager and James Karen, the Living Dead are accidentally released and begin terrorising Freddy and his band of merry miscreant teenage friends, all to great comical effect.

In October 1985, Stephen King’s 1983 novella “Cycle of the Werewolf” was adapted for the silver screen as “Silver Bullet” whilst Stuart Gordon’s special effects laden “Re-Animator” featuring a stand-out performance from Jeffrey Combs as the delightfully mad Herbert West whilst David Gale also deserves praise for his role in the film as Dr. Carl Hill, or the “head”, but the undoubted star of this particular film must be Bret Culpepper’s special effects and Everett Burrell’s make-up department, a must see horror film for aficionados of the genre.

January 1986 opened with John Carl Buechler’s widely panned and often derided “Troll”, which sees the Potter family’s young daughter, Wendy (Jenny Beck) attacked by a small and grotesque little creature, known as Torok, once a powerful wizard but now transformed into a troll for punishment after causing a war between the trolls, fairies and humans, bringing chaos to the once peaceful realm. February 1986 saw the arrival of Ted Nicolaou’s TerrorVision, an American science fiction horror comedy that was put together by producers Albert and Charles Band, who also penned the script, whilst Richard Band scored the film. The plot centres around a monstrous alien being, a mutant known as a “Hungry Beast” which is converted into an energy beam and zapped into the television of the Putterman family and embarks on a hungry rampage, eating whatever and whoever it possibly can, whilst it is left to teenager Sherman (Chad Allen), his sister Suzy (Diane Franklin) and her boyfriend, known simply as O.D., played by Jon Gries to ultimately save the day. As with John Carl Buechler’s “Trolls”, TerrorVision was shot down by the critics but went onto become a guilty pleasure for many purists of the horror genre.

In April 1986, New Line Cinema released Stephen Herek’s “Critters” to much acclaim, with the picture being described as “enjoyable although unoriginal.” After crash-landing on Earth, a race of dangerous aliens, known as “Krites” cause widespread panic and fear in a small Kansas farming community, it is left to Brad, April and Charlie to bring the situation to a head, but not before the Krites feast on the locals. “Critters” was often pertained to resemble Joe Dante’s Gremlins but director and co-writer Stephen Herek often rankles whenever these accusations surface, stating that both he and Domonic Muir wrote their screenplay far earlier than Chris Columbus’s script for Gremlins; Herek also states how Critters underwent several changes and re-shoots to reduce the similarities between the two films. 

In May 1986, production studio Metro Goldwyn Mayer released a sequel to their hugely successful film, Poltergeist, entitled “The Other Side” and although not as popular as Tobe Hooper’s original picture, the movie more than doubled its substantial $20,000,000 budget, and was also nominated for an Academy Award for Visual Effects. As with Poltergeist, the Freeling family, consisting of Steven (Craig T. Nelson), Diane (JoBeth Williams), Robbie (Oliver Robins) and Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) are once again menaced and tormented by demonic forces including the Reverend Henry Kane (Julian Beck) who stalks Carol Anne, hoping to lead both her and her family to the “Other Side.”

October 1986 once again saw Wes Craven return with a new horror film, entitled “Deadly Friend”, featuring Matthew Laborteaux, Kristy Swanson and Michael Sharrett and was based on Diana Henstell’s novel “Friend” and adapted for the silver screen by Bruce Joel Rubin. Deadly Friend remains something of a bone of contention for many horror aficionados as the majority of Craven’s original ideas for the film were lost due to studio interference, and as a result of a disastrous test screening, producers ordered several re-writes and re-shoots, which added gorier death scenes, dream sequences and a new ending, much to Craven’s annoyance; the film bombed at the box-office, taking an estimated $8,000,000 against an $11,000,000 budget. In April 2014, fans of the original cut of Deadly Friend petitioned for its release, however as of writing, Warner Bros. Studios have little interest in issuing a director’s cut.

In December 1986, Paragon Arts International released Kevin S. Tenney’s “Witchboard” into cinemas, although the film, which was centered around an Ouija Board and the subsequent possession of Tawny Kitaen’s character, Linda, wasn’t a massive box-office smash hit, due in part to its rather muted limited release, it did garner a cult following in later years and spawned several sequels. In March 1987, Sam Raimi followed up on his 1981 classic horror film The Evil Dead with Evil Dead II Dead by Dawn and generally repeats the action from the first film, albeit on a much larger scale; Evil Dead II was a sleeping hit with critics and horror fans alike, and although it failed to reach the heights set by its predecessor, the film was seen as a commercial success.

By the middle of May 1987, a little known horror film called The Gate was about to hold its opening night premiere in the township of Hell, Michigan, United States of America, and although director Tibor Takács had little in the way of hope for his small movie, special effects designer Randell William Cook and screenwriter Michael Nankin both remained optimistic. For Takács and Nankin, The Gate represented their first foray into the horror film industry, whilst Cook had previously worked on a number of pictures, including John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), Tom Holland’s Fright Night (1985) and Brian Gibson’s Poltergeist II The Other Side (1986) where he performed a number of roles, such as an animator, creature designer and visual effects. The Gate also marks the acting debut of Stephen Dorff, playing the character of Glenn; Louis Tripp, Christa Denton, Kelly Rowan and Jennifer Irwin also made their cinematic debuts in the film.

The Gate tells the story of twelve year old Glenn (Stephen Dorff), his sister Alexandra (Christa Denton) and his best friend Terry Chandler (Louis Tripp), also along for the ride are Alexandra’s best friends Lori (Kelly Rowan) and Linda (Jennifer Irwin), who discover a hole in their backyard, unbeknownst to them, the hole is actually a gateway to Hell and with the accidental incantation of a series of strange writings, the “Gate” has been opened, releasing several creatures into their world, including Minions and the Demon Lord. It is now up to Glenn, Alexandra and Terry to close the gateway before the demonic forces can take over their neighbourhood and the unsuspecting world at large.

Screenwriter Michael Nankin based the storyline of The Gate on his own childhood fears, and along with best friend Terry, the pair would try and dig a hole in their backyard, hoping to reach China, whilst Terry would tell a four year old Michael that a workman had died in their family home and had been buried inside the walls. After going through a tough period in his life, which included a divorce and the loss of a directing job, Nankin decided to construct another project and write and direct the picture himself. Originally, the storyline of The Gate was to be much darker and grittier, Nankin had planned for a more adult theme that would see violence and gore added to the film, however, after selling the rights to the picture to production studio Alliance Entertainment, which had recently been formed by producer Andras Hamori to fund movies that were to be filmed in Canada, the project was handed to Tibor Takács to direct, leaving Nankin devastated. After producer John Kemeny was brought on-board, the dynamics of the screenplay began to change, gone were the scenes of violence and gore, a staple of 1980’s horror films, and in came a much more family friendly film, an introduction to the horror film for children if you will.

With an estimated budget of around $2,500,000 Canadian dollars, production began in earnest, centered in and around Kleinburg and Toronto, Ontario, Canada; screenwriter Michael Nankin was brought on-board by director Tibor Takács, whilst special make-up artist Craig Reardon was offered the role after Shonagh Jabour decided to honour a commitment to work on David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986), an opportunity Reardon relished. Producer John Kemeny was on hand to keep the project moving forward, whilst Takács, Cook and Reardon all state how much fun they had making the film and although the shooting schedule remained tight and production was often constrained by the lack of funds available, both cast and crew remember their time working on the project fondly.

As I suggested at the top of this Blu-ray review of The Gate, the years from 1984 to 1987 were quite literally flowing with crimson, zombies, demons, ogres and the occasional Mogwai were selling their wares here, there and everywhere else in between, however The Gate manages to stand out from its peers for several reasons, the camaraderie between the young actors and actresses is evident on screen but the real star of the film has to be the special, visual and make-up effects that have ultimately stood the test of time and look fantastic on the small screen. Many of the special effects that were crafted by Randell William Cook include the stop-motion animation technique that was so favoured by Ray Harryhausen in films such as Jason and the Argonauts (1963), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) and Clash of the Titans (1981) and are used here to widespread and critical acclaim. Cook also used the forced perspective effect to create the miniature demons, known as the minions; essentially, they were portrayed by actors and actresses with no experience of acting or filmmaking who were “forced” into the rubber suits and were then directed into position by Cook onto stages that had been raised and lowered for the camera operators to film their scenes, often speeded up to several frames per second.

Overall, The Gate is a film that has stood up to the elements of time, where perhaps other notable pictures of the era have silently fallen away and with Vestron Video’s release of The Gate, through their Collector’s Series, the film looks and sounds incredible, whilst a vast array of special supplementary features await the viewer. There are two commentary tracks, the first from director Tibor Takács, screenwriter Michael Nankin and special effects designer Randell William Cook, which looks at several aspects of the film’s production, including changes to the script, casting the film, set design and construction, working conditions for the children on set, Lovecraftian influences, budget restraints, props, the origins and designs of the demons, mistakes and flaws, trouble with the ratings board and even a moth wrangler, a very informative track. The second commentary again features Randell William Cook and he is joined by make-up artist Craig Reardon, effects artist Frank Carere and matte photographer Bill Taylor, this track offers the viewer a more in-depth look at the special, visual and make-up effects seen in the film.

In The Gate Unlocked, director Tibor Takács and special effects designer Randell William Cook sit down and reminisce about their time spent during the production of the picture; again, several aspects of the movie are discussed and include many wonderful behind the scenes photographs, a must watch. In Minion Maker, special effects artist Craig Reardon talks about his personal experiences on the set of The Gate, in which he describes it as the “chance of a lifetime”, Reardon also goes into detail with The Workman and tells how his look for the character was influenced by Peter Vilhelm Glob’s archaeological study of the bog bodies of Northern Europe.

Producer Andras Hamori talks about how he came to work on The Gate in the short documentary, “From Hell It Came”, whilst the reasons for why the picture was produced in Canada are also discussed. Next, Carl Kraines tells of his experiences of playing perhaps the film’s most iconic character, The Workman; Kraines comes across as a really enthusiastic guy who also acted as mentor for the child actors and actresses, both on and off set. One of the stand-out supplements on this Blu-ray disc is a short documentary called Made in Canada and tells the stories of the unsung heroes of The Gate, the actors and crewmembers that we haven’t yet heard from, including Scott Denton, who played Glenn and Alexandra’s father, production manager Robert Wertheimer, costume designer Trysha Bakker, assistant director Kathleen Meade and minion performer Jonathon Llyr. It’s a fun look back with several funny tales from the set which includes John Kemeny’s spectacular fall from grace, again, a must watch. In From Hell: The Creatures and Demons of The Gate, special effects designer Randell William Cook and make-up artist Craig Reardon discus the minion, workman and demon creatures of the film, although informative, many previous recollections from the set are repeated here. The Gatekeepers sees director Tibor Takács and screenwriter Michael Nankin discussing their opinions on how the film’s screenplay evolved over time, whilst both writer and director wanted to take the film in different directions, with Takács aiming for a more family friendly horror film while Nankin felt it should remain closer to his original, much darker and visceral script. The last of the documentary supplements sees The Making of The Gate, which was originally made during the film’s production and aired shortly before the premiere in Hell, Michigan.

Finally, there are the usual array of storyboards, behind the scenes, TV spots, teaser and theatrical trailers to take a look at, the storyboards are especially interesting to view and show a variety of scenes before their actual construction and appearance on screen. 

Overall, Lionsgate Entertainment and Vestron Video have put together a solid and worthwhile addition to their Collector’s Series edition, although shot in 1987, The Gate has simply never looked better than it does now, encoded in the AVC MPEG-4 format, colours are vibrant and warm, whilst the animation effects of the minions and especially the Demon Lord all look flawless in 1080p, a lot of time and effort has been spent restoring The Gate to a condition that horror fans can be proud to own. Sound wise, Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson’s sensational score, which is discussed more thoroughly in an audio interview that can be found as a third commentary track on the disc, is presented in a DTS-HD Master and fully compliments the film’s rich 1080p transfer, sounds are clear and concise and thoroughly add to the overall enjoyment of the film.

Both Lionsgate and Vestron Video deserve to be commended for assembling a full and entertaining package, which includes a wealth of supplementary material, everything you ever wanted to know about The Gate, you’ll find it right here on this Blu-ray disc, and deserves to be in your horror film collection, alongside Ken Russell’s The Lair of the White Worm and Robert Kurtzman’s Wishmaster, both available from Lionsgate and Vestron Video’s Collector’s Series.

Recommended

Special Features and Supplementary material includes...

•        Audio commentary with director Tibor Takács, screenwriter Michael Nankin, and special effects designer and supervisor Randall William Cook

•        Audio commentary with special effects designer and supervisor Randall William Cook, special make-up effects artist Craig Reardon, special effects artist Frank Carere and matte photographer Bill Taylor

•        Isolated score and audio interview with composers Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson

•        The Gate: Unlocked (1080p; 27:54) Director Tibor Takács and special effects designer Randell William Cook sit down and reminisce about their time spent during the production of the picture

•        Minion Maker (1080p; 22:36) Special effects artist Craig Reardon talks about his personal experiences on the set of The Gate

•        From Hell It Came (1080p; 13:13) Producer Andras Hamori talks about how he came to work on The Gate

•        The Workman Speaks! (1080p; 12:12) Carl Kraines tells of his experiences of playing perhaps the film’s most iconic character, The Workman

•        Made in Canada (1080p; 28:28) Tells the stories of the unsung heroes of The Gate and their experiences whilst on set

•        From Hell: The Creatures and Demons of The Gate (1080p; 14:53) Special effects designer Randell William Cook and make-up artist Craig Reardon discus the minion, workman and demon creatures of the film

•        The Gatekeepers (1080p; 15:46) Director Tibor Takács and screenwriter Michael Nankin discuss their opinions on how the film’s screenplay evolved over time

•        Making of The Gate (1080i; 22:55) Originally made during the film’s production and aired shortly before the premiere in Hell, Michigan

•        Teaser Trailer (1080i; 1:08)

•        Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 1:50)

•        TV Spot (1080i; 00:32)

•        Storyboard Gallery (1080p; 9:27)

•        Behind the Scenes Gallery (1080p; 10:20)

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