Blu-ray
Recommended
4 stars
List Price
$39.97
Amazon
$28.59 (28%)
3rd Party
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Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
4 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

The Gate

Street Date:
February 28th, 2017
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
February 27th, 2017
Movie Release Year:
1987
Studio:
Lionsgate
Length:
86 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Let's thwart accusations of watching 'The Gate' through rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia by admitting that I mostly definitely am. To be perfectly honest, it's really the only way to enjoy and love a plot about two boys (Stephen Dorff and Louis Tripp) accidentally opening a portal to an underground layer of little, lizard-like minions. And every time those vicious monstrosities make an appearance, it's either done with the magic of stop-motion photography, which always brings a smile to my face, or live-action with actors in body suits running a stage with oversize furniture. Best of all, heavy metal music, which the older of the two Terry (Tripp) happens to be an admirer of, offers the only known solution for closing the portal and defeating the evil spirits back to the pit from whence they came. The real winner, it turns out, is actually science by means of a rocket Glen (Dorff) has been saving to launch with his older sister Al (Christa Denton). It's a metaphor for each other's love and sibling bond, or some such nonsense.

The whole thing is laughably silly, deep-fried in several layers of cheese and sprinkled with heart attack-inducing schlock. I know it's bad for you, but it tastes so damn good. It's a guilty pleasure that hits the spot, right down to the very last bite. There's really no other way to cherish the low-budget Canadian production than through the lens of nostalgia, reminiscing on memories of my youth. While watching, I longed — and even admired — for the days when movies targeted at young adults weren't riddled with a barrage of continuously pointless action, marred by suspenseless jump scares or infested with nauseatingly shaky camera movements that never let audiences simply be immersed in the supposedly spooky atmosphere. Director Tibor Takács, who later when on to director 'I, Madman' but sadly, not much else of note since, doesn't do anything particularly fancy, but he and cinematographer Thomas Vámos display a confidence in allowing viewers to take in the scene and see the danger character's confront.

These were also the days when filmmakers relied on simple, straightforward plots with genuinely relatable situations that challenged our protagonists, giving them an obstacle to overcome. For Glen, this is the ever-growing distance between Al and him, their age-gap becoming more apparent as her teenage interests expand into hanging out with friends, partying and boys. Their first weekend alone with the parents away and sixteen-year-old Al in charge sets the stage for testing their bond. And as we'd expect, they spend a good deal of time bickering at one another and treating Glen like an over-imaginative child when the boys try to fix their mistakes alone, without older-sister's guidance. To be fair, Michael Nankin's script is the standard coming-of-age tale that doesn't offer many surprises. But throwing the "end-of-the-world" wrench into their already-strained relationship — a cute metaphor for what poor Glen is really feeling — is a neat twist for our little hero to rise above and prove he handle the changes.

Yes, I love 'The Gate' largely for its nostalgia, but let's consider and value the period in which this cult favorite was made. This was also a time when movies targeted at younger viewers didn't shy away from the scary, nightmare-inducing visuals and featured kids in real peril, where we actually felt children were in danger and might not succeed. Even if their ultimate success is rather silly and maudlin, the events leading up to that predictably happy resolution is peppered with life-threatening encounters, the sort of graphic horror we no longer see in kids' movies because something has changed in what we think children can or cannot handle on the big screen. It's the horror stuff no longer considered appropriate or acceptable for younger viewers. In nostalgically enjoying this 1987 horror gem, I also miss movies such as 'Beware! Children at Play,' 'The Black Cauldron,' 'The Watcher in the Woods,' 'The Witches,' 'Gremlins,' and 'The Goonies.' Tibor Takács's film proudly sits among those dark, scary movies for kids.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

Lionsgate Home Entertainment brings 'The Gate' to Blu-ray as a Collector's Series under the distributor's Vestron Video line. The Region A locked, BD50 disc is housed inside a blue, eco-cutout case with a glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to a static menu screen with a full-motion clips and music playing in the background.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The gates to the underworld are accidentally summoned to Blu-ray with a great-looking 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode, which from the looks of it, might have been made from the same remastered version seen a few years ago on DVD. But whatever the case may be, the 1987 horror favorite has never looked better, showing plenty of sharp detailing in the clothes, foliage and the 80s furnishing. The tiny little wrinkles and furrows of the small demonic minions are distinctly visible, whether it's in the stop-motion sequences or actors running around in body suits. Understandably, there are a few moments of softness here and there, but a vibrantly colorful palette keeps things upbeat and animated with primaries looking particularly striking and richly saturated. Contrast and brightness levels are very well-balanced with comfortably bright whites throughout and strong, true blacks. With a visible thin layer of natural grain, the 1.85:1 presentation arrives with a welcomed cinematic quality fans with love. 

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The dark kingdom of little evil minions pour into home theaters with an outstanding DTS-HD Master Audio stereo soundtrack that surpasses initial expectations. The design is littered with various noises and off-screen effects, generating a convincingly broad and expansive soundstage. Applying the receiver's upmixing function, many of those same atmospherics nicely bleed into the other channels, which keeps things lively and engaging from beginning to end. But even without it, the background is continuously active with the sounds of thunder, moths flying across the screen or the echo of the giant demon's, delivering a satisfying soundfield. The mid-range is dynamic and detailed, even during the loudest sequences, exhibiting superb clarity and fidelity in the upper frequencies. Low bass isn't particularly noteworthy, but it's adequate and surprisingly hearty, providing the track with an excellent sense of presence. With distinct, precise vocals in the center, the lossless mix is an awesome addition to the video. 

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Audio Commentaries — The first of three commentary tracks features director Tibor Takács sitting down with writer Michael Nankin and special effects supervisor Randall William Cook talking extensively about the film's creation, creative choices and various memories from the production. This is followed by another discussion between Cook, special effects artists Craig Reardon and Frank Carere and matte photographer Bill Taylor that's more technical but very enlightening while reminiscing on some of the challenges they faced. The third track is an isolated score occasionally interrupted by an audio interview with composers Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson explaining their approach and thought process to the material.
  • Made in Canada (HD, 28 min) — Filmed very recently, this is a small collection of short interviews with various cast & crew members sharing a variety of memories and anecdotes about the Canadian film industry at the time and working on this production.
  • The Gate: Unlocked (HD, 27 min) — An amusing chat between Takács and Cook reminiscing on the production, its genesis and other interesting anecdotes.
  • Minion Maker (HD, 23 min) — An entertaining interview with Reardon, the special effect artist responsible for creating the demons and supervising the stop-motion scenes.
  • Making of (1080i/60, 23 min) — The original EPK piece primarily focused on the demonic minions and the film's horror aspects while showing various movie clips and BTS footage.
  • The Gatekeepers (HD, 16 min) — Takács and Nankin return with more about the plot, its genesis, their careers, the challenges on set and feeling gratified with the results.
  • From Hell: The Creatures & Demons (HD, 15 min) — More interviews with the same group of talented folks talking about the special effects and the joy of making a horror movie for kids.
  • From Hell It Came (HD, 13 min) — A surprisingly interesting talk with film critic and producer Andras Hamori talking about his involvement with Alliance Films and this project.
  • The Workman Speaks! (HD, 12 min) — Carl Kraines, who played the zombie workman, talks about his role both in front and behind the camera.
  • Still Gallery (HD) — Two separate collections of storyboard and BTS photos.
  • Trailers (HD, 1080i/60) — Two theatrical previews with one TV spot.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no high-def exclusives.

Final Thoughts

In all honesty, a large part of the love for Tibor Takács's 'The Gate' is largely due to nostalgia, reminiscing for those days when violent, scary movies were made with younger viewers in mind. And still, the story about two boys reaching that age when they're feeling abandoned and isolated by the grownup world is an amusing coming-of-age tale told through a dark fantasy lens full of life-threatening danger, and it remains just an entertaining as ever. The Blu-ray arrives with an excellent audio and video presentation that will surprise fans, but the addition of brand new supplements touching on various aspects of the production is most tempting. The overall package is recommended and makes a great addition to any enthusiast's cult library.

Technical Specs

  • BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
  • Region A Locked

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • Spanish

Supplements

  • Audio Commentaries
  • Featurettes
  • Isolated Score
  • Still Galleries
  • Trailers

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List Price
$39.97
Amazon
$28.59 (28%)
3rd Party
$28.59
Not yet released Buy Now»