Director - Jackson Stewart (Ninja Masters 4: The Possession, Sex Boss)
Starring - Graham Skipper (The Devil's Dolls, Carnage Park), Chase Williamson (John Dies at the End, Ant-Man), and Brea Grant (Halloween II, Dexter)
Release Date - 2016
Genre - Horror/Comedy
Tagline - "Press PLAY...and pray"
Format - Bluray (Personal Collection) (Screener)
Rating (out of 5):
VHS has been popular in my life the last week or so. I recently made the hour trip to Charleston, WV to do some Goodwill/thrift store hunting to score some DVDs and 70s and 80s horror paperbacks for my collection but the first store I stopped at had a huge VHS collection from a now defunct video store. I found some amazing titles in the sat and left with a few boxes of movies for less than $20. I don't collect VHS anymore but I sure as shit wasn't leaving them behind. A few days later I watched and reviewed the Troma released documentary VHS Massacre: Cult Films and the Decline of Physical Media. We jump forward to yesterday and I decided to stop by my local Goodwill to see if they had any new DVDs of horror paperbacks when I came across 10 Godzilla tapes alone with one I had never heard of before, Stephen King's Nightshift Collection Volume 1: The Woman in the Room. I couldn't leave those behind either so I grabbed them up. VHS has been everywhere this last week or so and would play a huge part in my next film review. After watching The Autopsy of Jane Doe sent to me by Scream Factory I decided it was time to finally check out Beyond the Gates. Thank you Scream Factory for sending this one my way!
The film follows two distant brothers, Gordon (Skipper) and John (Williamson), who come together to sort their father's property and close his video store after his disappearance. Gordon is very clean cut and has his life together while John has no constant in his life other than alcohol. While boxing up their father's belongings in his video store they come across an old VHS board game still in the VCR. They take it back to their father's home and decide to play it where they tossed in the middle of a supernatural whirlwind. They learn that their father played the game and is now trapped in beyond the gates. In order to save his soul they must finish the game or die trying...
I heard mixed things about Beyond the Gates. I had seen so many people on social media proclaiming their love for this film and its 80s horror feel. They loved the story, the effects, and boasted how the film had one of the greatest horror posters of recent years (I disagree with the last claim). Other stated their hatred for the film and its slow moving plot and anti-climatic ending. Personally, it was an entertaining film but was not a contender for my favorite films of the year. The acting in this one is great. I really enjoyed the cast and their characters. When the film first gets rolling I had a hard time getting into Graham Skipper's character. He was way too uptight and emotionless for me but as the film progresses you see his character come out of his shell. I really enjoyed that thorough performance and how his character changed with the film. It's always great to see Chase Williamson land a leading role. John Dies in the End is an amazing film and I feel that it is Williamson that makes it so fucking enjoyable. He once again brings that dry slacker humor to Beyond the Gates and quickly became my favorite character in the film. His characters are always relatable. Also, it was great seeing Justin Welborn in another horror film. Back in 2008 he was in the underrated zombie comedy Dance of the Dead. I fucking loved that movie and can remember watching it almost every day for a month. I loved his performance in that film and it was great seeing him give us another similar character. My biggest complaint about the cast is how underutilized horror legend Barbara Crampton is. She is extremely talented and her beauty is rarely matched. It was cool having her be the host of the board game but at the same time her character is easily forgettable and we don't get a chance to appreciate what she can bring to the film. The story for this one is fun but lack originality and pacing. The film does a great job delivery the nostalgia factor with the video store and the VHS board game but struggles to find steady pacing. The film has a painfully slow start. It does a great job at establishing the character's backstory but fails to gain momentum on the story until much later. Once the film gets rolling it is the end portion of the film. Time is not managed well at all with the film. I feel like a tremendous story was wasted with this film. Finally, the film has several gory on screen kills that I honestly was not expecting. The film has such a slow start and almost innocent like demeanor that I wasn't expecting the splatter we do get. The kills are great and the practical effects are even better. In this regard I can see why so many horror fans enjoyed it. Overall, Beyond the Gates is a solid entry into modern but you will not see it on many top lists for the year. The gore is great and the cast is even better but the story needs a lot of work. Check it out.