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Hardcore horror fans of that bygone era where you could stroll into your local video store and pick up a couple of day rentals have no doubt heard of this film. #BeyondTheGates is a retro-feel movie set in the pre-digital era, and at first glance, looked to be a cult classic. However, after watching the movie myself, I have to say it fails to deliver on its promises and ironically has become yet another movie that deserves to become a deleted title, much like the low-budget horror that used to get churned out back in the '80s video boom. So hold and tight and let's reel through this movie and check out what holds it back from greatness.
What's The Story?
Firstly, Beyond The Gates has one of the better plots I've encountered in some time. In a nutshell, two brothers come together to clear out their missing father's VHS rental store and come across a video board-game. After popping in the tape and setting up the board they soon realize the game has an evil hold over them and is also the key to their father's disappearance. Sound good? You bet it does! I always love a sweet slice of nostalgia and the '80s seems a decade that will never end (at least in the horror genre).
Now, after watching this trailer myself I knew two things 1) it had a cool concept and 2) it also had Barbara Crampton, one of my favorite scream queens to have ever graced the silver screen. I first saw her in mid-'80s cult horror film Re-Animator and was impressed by her acting skills. Making her the onscreen video game TV host was a stroke of genius, I just wish we'd have got a little more screen time with her overall. Perhaps this makes her role even more of a treat? Possibly. Either way, I would recommend seeing the movie just for her performance.
The rest of the cast are mainly there to drive the plot forward and you'll be hard pressed to think of them as little else than plot-pushers. We have "serious" brother Gordon played by Graham Skipper and "slacker bro" John a.k.a. Chase Williamson who was excellent in Don Coscarelli's indie mind-bender John Dies At The End. Unfortunately, neither of them step up their game in this movie and one bickering scene seems to flow nicely from point A to point B without either one showing any real emotion on screen. A shame because I wanted to get into their dynamic and mindset, as it would have driven the horror element up a notch. It seems the director chose to simply have long, lingering shots of silence between them for the audience to add their own thoughts rather than actually get a good performance from the duo. This alone makes the movie seem hours longer than it's 84-minute run-time.
Budget's Pretty Low
Now, don't get me wrong, a horror movie DOES NOT have to have a high budget to be a success. In fact, horror is one of the few genres that can actually flourish without an abundance of cash. The real horror lies in keeping characters trapped in one location or another, which no doubt helps to keep the budgets low. Just look at #SamRaimi's #EvilDead and you can't deny the creativity with a movie set almost entirely in a cabin and forest. Unlike that film, though, there is very little flair going on with the visuals. After you realize Beyond The Gates is almost entirely set within the confines of their late dad's house, you'll be fighting the urge to press that fast forward button.
The movie tries to do what Insidious did so well and venture into another realm, in their case, it was The Further. In this movie, it's heading behind those pesky gates and coming face to face with a new reality. However, that never really seems to happen, what we get are a few jump scares that are so-so executed and a lack of any decent special FX makeup on show. In fact, I've seen student short films that have better gore, which, no doubt, were made on a significantly smaller (or no) budget. Such a shame that a movie clearly inspired by '80s horror would choose to handle the theme in such a poor way; it really is unjust in my opinion.
What The Devil?
Well, this movie just keeps on adding sins to its already bursting list and when I finally got to this point in the movie I really wasn't as fazed as I should have been. As the brothers search for any info on the board game, they discover their father had bought it recently from a curios shop in town. Cue one of the worst scenes I've had the grace to see this side of a Nickelodeon TV show as they encounter the shop owner, who seems to be playing the devil(?).
The guy's performance is NOT subtle and it's laughable when he starts to say cryptic things like "I suggest you finish the game." Also, he pops up again in an end-credit sequence to continue the mythos of how the game gets passed on to the next victim. What could have been a genuinely chilling scene like, for instance, in the Final Destination movies where the characters encounter #TonyTodd's character, who seems to be death in human form. This scene is laughable and the camp acting and cheesy Dracula costume really hurt the credibility of the board.
What should have been a fun nostalgia-laden nod to that bygone rental-era turns into a truly average and slow-paced horror flick. Stylistically, it looks good from time to time and any scene with Barbara Crampton is worth a look. Unfortunately, the film never gets into a comfortable groove and you'll just be left with more questions than answers. It really could have been the Jumanji for horror fans, but instead settles into place as a movie that will be completely forgotten within two years. This is certainly no Stranger Things, and you'll realize that all too late after purchasing the film. Only see this if you have some sort of MASSIVE discount on the DVD or VOD — even then you'd be hard pressed to say it was worth purchasing.