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The Gate (1987)

by on 2012/10/02

“Tres uncool.”

* *

The Gate is an horrific misfire which meets the criteria for at least two definitions of the word “messy”. It appears to be directed at children, psychotics, the schizoids leaping around between them, or maybe those qualifying as all the above.

Featuring the otherwise strong Stephen Dorff (Blade), and fleeting glimpses of Jennifer Irwin (Michael, Tuesdays and Thursday), it tells the story of kids who discover a portal to a sinister underworld. Eventually its inhabitants become curious, emerge, and attack our world (which is to say the protagonist’s family home).

E.T., Gremlins, The NeverEnding Story, Night of the Living Dead, Poltergeist, and Weird Science . . . I appreciated some of these movies, I didn’t care for others. The Gate resembles all of them, but clearly learned little from their examples.

Here’s a recipe for those who like novelty prose. Take the first scene of Scream. Remove any sense of a threat. Stretch it out, repeat it, whatever, for an hour and a half. Or how about this? Take Paranormal Activity. Replace the adults and video cameras with kids and toys. Then splice in various Harryhausenesque animations.

How does such a short and simple film feel so overlong? This effort is exceedingly slow and ultimately tiring. And by “simple” I don’t mean to suggest “uncomplicated”. The Gate is packed with scattershot decorations to express a straightforward premise. Its inconsistent mishmash of devices, tropes, and themes includes: geodes, grieving, growing apart, latchkeyism, levitation, the occult, peer pressure, reincarnation, rockets, sacrifice, stigmata, and a tornado.

(At risk of adding to the overload, it’s virtually begging for a journey to the underworld, though fans of Joseph Campbell will be disappointed.)

Now don’t for a moment assume I’m being unfair to a children’s flick. If you enjoyed the climax of Cronenberg’s Scanners, there’s a gory scene just for you near the midpoint.

Oh, I could go into detail about some poor dialogue and performances. I could elaborate on how the visual effects are uneven. And I’ll mention only briefly that the transitions evoke a sitcom.

But why would I waste my time, and why should I waste yours?

So while 1987 gave us some amazing and memorable movies — like Predator, The Princess BrideRoboCop, and The Untouchables — this confused, imbalanced mess isn’t one of them.

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Rated PG13

85 minutes

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