Beyond the Gates,
Directed by Jackson Stewart,
Starring Graham Skipper, Chase Williamson, Barbara Crampton, Brea Grant, Sara Malakul Lane, Jesse Merlin
Two estranged brothers have to clean up their father’s old video store, when he has been missing for seven months. One is a tightly-wound executive type while the other is a loser who can’t hold down a job. During the clean up of the store they stumble upon an old video board game, which were more popular during the late 80s and the 90s. The feeling is Jumanji mixing with The Evil Dead, the original one.
You cannot escape the 80s feeling in this film. I’ll get the biggest problem out of the way right now, because I really enjoyed this film, but the biggest problem is that they held back too much. They should have added Cowbell up to 11 to this film. They should have gone so over the top that they hit the clouds, I don’t know why they didn’t as all the elements were there to make this as crazy as they could have but they stop themselves.
The story is very much like a twisted version of Jumanji, with the horror elements hitting hard when they need to. It takes a while to get started, where you think it’s the typical B-Movie fare but it’s high above that. The brothers are Gordon and John, and to give Graham Skipper and Chase Williamson their due they do a great job in making you feel that they are actual brothers. Gordon’s girlfriend is played by Brea Grant, and she does a fine job of being the scream queen of this film. The feeling of the cheap 80s and 90s horror films is rife through the whole film, with the typical horror background music from that time stumbling along to add to the feeling.
The sinister force in the video board game is Evelyn, played by Barbara Crampton (much beloved for her turn in cult classic Re-animator), she has that 60s Mistress of Evil feeling down nicely. When the reality of the game starts to hit home the brothers realise that the dangers are far more real than they thought. They have to suspend their belief in our world and embrace the game.
There is a great feeling of the camp nature of goofy horror movies that made me love this film. Is it up there with the greats of the adventure horror movies? No, not at all, but it’s the most damn entertaining way to spend a morning at home. There is even a camp oddity store owner, the type of store my Dad would have taken us as children to see how the owner acts. Again though, I would have liked the film to just abandon the whole constraint that it forces upon itself and to have let loose more. A little more humour too would have gone down well too.
This is the sort of film that you’d watch at home with your mates over a takeaway and enjoy the camp horror and goofy deaths. It’s not going to blow anyone away, but if you’re a fan of Jumanji and old horror films you’ll find something to enjoy along the way.
Beyond the Gates is available now on DVD and digital from Signature Entertainment