Yes, yes, the 1st season of Stranger Things was quite a watch. Sadly it fell apart soon after that. Sure, you’ve got Stand By Me. And of course there are both versions of It (IT-erations if you will). But before them all, we have to go back to 1987 to open up The Gate. Okay technically the novel It was 1986, but this ain’t a book blog, so let’s not split hairs here.
My point is, The Gate is a fine example of The Big Evil being taken on by a plucky band of little nerds, in this case Glen, Terry, and Glen’s sister Alexandra (Al). There’s a couple of incidental characters as well, namely Al’s friends Lori and Linda. Al has been left in charge whilst their parents head off for a little weekend getaway. Cuz kids. Jeebus. Admittedly, these kids are refreshingly likeable and not whiny, obnoxious brats.
Anyway, the tree holding Glen’s treehouse has been struck by lightning then cut down, revealing a large geode in the smoking hole left behind. In the investigation process, Glen gets cut and, uh oh, leaves a drop of blood behind. Thus begins the process (as if the suburbs were not their own circle of Hell already) of opening a portal to Hell.
Terry, of course, has a heavy metal album that handily explains all the inner workings of Hellmouths in their liner notes (they just don’t write those like they used to). According to the band Sacrifice (a for really reals thrash metal ensemble outta Canadia), apparently the only thing needed to complete the accidentally initiated summoning of demons is for a sacrifice to be dumped into the pit. So long as that doesn’t happen, all will be beer & skittles.
Complications, of course, arise. Early in said proceedings, Glen’s dog ends up dead. The rocket surgeon who’s interested in Al is tasked with taking the doggo’s remains to animal control. Instead he unceremoniously dumps the pooch in the pit. Cue mayhem, not the least of which are some kinda cute stop motion demons, and if these little guys look familiar, you can thank Randy Cook who also did effects for Laserblast, I Madman, and Q: The Winged Serpent to name a few.
In a 2012 Slant review, Odie Henderson suggests that “If you can get in touch with your inner 12-year-old, The Gate is a pleasant diversion.” Well, rest assured gang, that kid is never far from the surface for those of us here at Castle Blogferatu where some us are perpetually 12. Relatedly, let’s talk about stop motion animation. What can I say? I’m a sucker for it. All day. I’d go so far as to say that I’ll take pretty bad stop motion over pretty good CGI any day of the week.
Maybe it’s level of labor intensive craftsman ship. Maybe it’s nostalgia, something hard wired into those early childhood memories of watching Ray Harryhausen movies on tv with my dad. Who knows? But my entire movie-watching life, to this day I remain enamored of and wonder struck by it.
I’m not the only one who’s fond of this movie for exactly what it is. Dread Central’s Paul “Nomad” Nicholasi calls it a “must have.” He goes on to add “With the charm of E.T., non threatening action akin to The Monster Squad and some quality low level creeps, consider this the first horror movie you can show your kids, opening them up to a whole new world that will make them the twisted individuals we will one day call…our readers.” Indeed.
Henderson, meanwhile, observes that “By film’s end, one’s faith and familial love can bring back not only the dead but also one’s lost sneaker. Takács [director] and company don’t beat the viewer over the head with this, but these ideas were prevalent enough for me to take notice.”
I kinda love that observation, especially the sneaker bit, but it’s a little, I dunno, pronatalist? In other words, the script here can be flipped just as easily—parents, don’t ever consider leaving your precious 16 and 12-year-old kids on their own, not for so much as a minute, just to carve out even a speck of time to yourselves, let alone an entire weekend. You selfish bastards. What kind of monsters are you?
BODIES- 1 poor ol’ floof
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