The Gate (1987)
What’s It About: Young Stephen Dorff plays Glen, who begins the film with a nightmare where he is utterly alone in the world. His parents and older sister Alexandra “Al” are nowhere to be found. Dinner is left abandoned and the TV is left on in the basement. He climbs up his tree-house because he hears noises and within minutes the tree is struck by lightning and crashes to the ground. When Glen awakens he finds the very same tree that he dreamed about has in fact been struck by lightning and a crew of workers are cutting it up and removing it from his yard. How this 11-year-old kid didn’t hear a huge tree fall in the middle of the night is odd. Odder still is how quickly the landscapers arrived to fix up the mess. Anyway, Glen finds a nice geode that would make any geek shopping at Natural Wonders happy.
Glen and his best bud, Terry are looking for more geodes in the hole left from the tree because Terry thinks they can sell them and make some moolah. Terry digs too deep and some smoke is released from the hole. When the boys go greet Al throwing away some model rockets, the hole then releases thousands of moth-like insects. Terry captures some and puts them in a jar. Because who doesn’t beautiful moths in jar in their room? Later on, they find what could be a huge geode.
So, Glen and Al’s parents are leaving for the weekend and Al lobbies hard that she’s 16, responsible enough to watch Glen and the house with no trouble. The gullible and idiotic parents fall for that old gag and agree. Glen, however is punished for digging into the hole and is ordered to fill it back in. The next day as the parents are saying good-bye they warn them–No parties! So the next scene, Al and Glen are volunteering at a soup kitchen. Nah, there’s a huge party!
While the party is raging, Glen and Terry are upstairs trying to open up the geode. Sounds like my typical Saturday nights when I was younger—party downstairs, geode cracking upstairs. Anyway, they manage to open up the rock and are shocked that an odd amount of smoke explodes out of it and strange writings are on his Magic Slate. Sorry Magick!
Meanwhile, the party is calmed down now for the mystical portion of the evening. You know, the time of the party when you all get into occult rituals? One kooky chick suggests attempting to levitate someone. When they see Glen, they see the best opportunity to attempt to levitate him. Glen wants to be cool, as we all do, and obliges. This is Glen’s lucky night and he actually floats up to the ceiling and breaks a light. Falling a bit and feeling embarrassed, he runs off crying.
The night isn’t over yet for the supernatural as Terry, in a trance, sees and embraces his dead mother in Glen’s foyer but it turns out it’s just Angus, Glen’s very old dog. In a state of shock and fear, Terry drops Angus to the ground, sending him to doggie heaven. Not to ruin the great weekend so far for Glen, Al says she will take care of Angus, or at least make her would-be boyfriend, Eric take him to the animal shelter before all meeting at the mall to go shopping!
Time for a sad little scene of Glen looking at his photo album of Angus pics before he discovers a model rocket gift he got for Al for her birthday but had forgotten about. These kids love space and rockets apparently. Glen also discovers that the hole opened back up in the yard. Terry comes over after rocking out to his heavy metal music where he stumbled upon “The Dark Book”, an album by a group who were huge demonophiles. Terry tells Glen that all that has transpired in the past day or two is the result of them slightly opening up the gate to the demon-world. All they need is a sacrifice to fully open the gate. About this time, unbeknownst to Glen and Terry, Eric brings Angus back to Glen’s house since the animal shelter was closed and throws Angus into the hole. The boys then attempt some exorcism on the hole with incantations they heard while spinning “The Dark Book” record backwards. Coincidentally, did you know that if you spin Stryper’s “To Hell With The Devil” record backwards that you’re a total loser for ever owning that record. True fact!
That night, Al has a sleepover with her two ditzy friends, the Lee sisters, while Terry stays another night over. Glen is awakened by his window shattering caused by a swarm of the demon moths. When Glen seeks help from his sister, she tries to wake Terry up but instead of Terry on the floor, its dead Angus! Huge demon arms come out from under the bed trying to grab the kids but they run out of there in a jiffy. When they try to leave the house, they are confronted by Glen’s parents who turn out to be demons posing as them taunting the kids. When Al bravely attempts to check the back yard she is nearly attacked by pint-sized naked demons. These minions are probably the cutest demons you ever saw. They lightly grunt as they move and wobble as they run. They seem kinda dim and weak but they are in great numbers, just like the contestants on Toddlers N’ Tiaras.
After all means of escape or seeking help fail, they turn to the next best solution. No, not hard drugs—the bible. The kids go to the hole and read some bible passages in an effort to close the gate and send all the demons back to the center of the Earth. Its a long shot but its their only shot. Except maybe hopping the fence and getting the police or priests. While reading the verses, Terry gets too close and falls a few yards deep into the hole. Moments later he fights off a few dozen minions while Al and Glen lower down a rope to rescue him. When he reaches the surface again, Terry, unable to find a suitable bible verse to close up the gate, throws the bible into the hole in frustration. It wasn’t such a bad idea since it seemed to close up the hole. Next time something is bothering me, like traffic, I’m going to throw a bible into the street and hope it makes all the cars disappear.
Later that night, the boys are attacked by a zombie-like man in overalls that broke through the wall. Earlier in the film, Glen told his dad that Terry told him that when the house was being built a worker died and they just covered him up. Shocked that the tall-tale turned out to be true, the boys are unable to defend themselves and Terry is abducted back into the wall. The worker zombie then attacks Al in her bedroom. Glen comes to her rescue and it turns out the zombie is just a dozen or so minions pieced together like a demonic Voltron.
Alexandra is no match for the zombie, even armed with her father’s shotgun and she too is abducted into the walls. Glen then realizes that Terry and Al are the last two sacrifices required to fully open the gate and unleash hell on Earth. He also realizes that he needs that rocket he bought for his sister’s birthday because a symbol of love and purity (or light) can destroy the evil. As he races back to his room, the floor of the foyer opens up revealing the bigger gate to hell and an entrance-way for the king of the demons—an impressively large worm-like Harryhausen creature with tentacles and various arms. Glen is nearly attacked by the alpha demon but he just touches Glen’s head. Afterwards, Glen has an eyeball on the palm of his hand and freaks out! Why? I could think of some advantages to having an eye on your hand.
Anyway, Glen sulks in his room after witnessing the huge tornado of evil funneling up towards the sky coming from the gate. Fearing he’s Earth’s last hope, Glen stabs the palm-eye with a shard of glass, freeing him from the burden of having people ask him to “eye-five” them. Glen grabs the rocket kit and sets it up to fire it at the demon-boss. After a few clichéd dramatic false-starts to ignite the model rocket he finally, sets it off into the belly of the beast making it explode into a firework display worthy of any July 4th BBQ. The sky opens up back to light as the dawn rises and all order is (mostly) restored, including Angus coming back to life. Wait…what?
Is It Actually Scary: Its been a long long time since I’ve seen this fun demon-filled romp. While I wasn’t scared back then, and certainly not now it has great stop-motion special effects for the minions and the king demon. In today’s CGI-filled wasteland, its great going back to these older films and seeing how more life-like a well-done in-camera special effect could look. The minions have their moments to be hair-raising, on the other hand they also have moments of adorableness.
How Much Gore: Virtually none. Dorff gets his hands cut twice and thats about it.
Dumb Moments: This movie was pretty much flawless in the imbecilic department until the ending when Angus suddenly came back to life. That made zero sense to the story. We were already told Angus was already very old and his death wasn’t caused by demons but by Terry dropping him on the ground hard. Made sense then to see an elderly dog die by a fall. But him coming back to life after the demons were defeated makes less sense when the house was left in shambles. If all was put right by killing the head demon including bringing Angus back to life, then the house would’ve been put back to normal as well.
Any Nudity: The minions are naturally running around like they’re at a miniature nudist colony. But they aren’t blessed with genitalia so it doesn’t much matter.
Overall: I used to enjoy watching this gem as a youngster and I’m very happy to say its just as much fun to watch today. While Stephen Dorff is one odd-looking kid he does a decent job fighting demons. Watching those cute and cuddly evil demon minions run around reeking havoc almost makes up for all those other Gremlin-like rip-offs from the mid to late 80s. Almost (I’m looking at you Ghoulies!) The ending is a tad far fetched by having a simple cheap plastic rocket rip through the flesh of a huge demon, killing it, but hey, how else would a kid be able to destroy a 50-foot demon? But I had a hoot opening this gate again and you should too!
Score: 8.5 pint-sized demon minions (out of 10)