Small Scale Scares: The Gate
Stephen Dorff (Space Truckers, Blade) started his career with The Gate, in the lead role of Glen, a tagalong little brother to his big sister, Al (Christa Denton). Their parents decide to raze and sod their suburban backyard, tearing down Glen’s creaky treehouse in the process.
Glen and his friend, Terry (Louis Tripp) dig around at the poorly filled hole where the tree was rooted, and find a geode, from which a whole manner of nightmarish and creative (but kid-friendly) horrors are unleashed upon their small cul-de-sac.
What makes The Gate so much fun for an October horror watch, or anytime, is that it never forgets the perspective of its characters; even Al, the older sister, is “almost sixteen,” by her own declaration. These are kids, by any estimation. The film never ignores the relationship dynamic of a sibling age difference, and plays off it in fun but real ways. And the threats found in The Gate are such that would creep out kids in an audience, without absolutely traumatizing them.
Those demonic threats include such neat imagery as a zombie that first explodes from a wall of their home, and then explodes again into dozens of action figure-sized demon, a creepily realistic eye growing out of Glen’s palm, the corrupted image of Glen’s and Al’s mother changing shape into the limp body of their family dog, and a swarm of moths.
These moments are never so graphic that The Gate wouldn’t be fit for a kid’s sleepover, but they’re all just creepy enough to unsettle. Throw in some nods to the Satanic Panic of the 1980’s, a young suburban boy’s fascination with fire and things that explode, and a fairly well-executed stop motion animated final demon to face, and The Gate adds up to a fun and creepy, if small scale, fright flick.
All that said, since the incident that set the film’s story in motion is unattended children left to their own devices on a summer weekend, The Gate is possibly the best argument against the suburban practice of raising “latchkey kids” possible. It’s still a minor gem that has finally gotten its due, though.