Review Date: October 23, 2009
Released by: Alliance Atlantis
Release date: 6/24/2003
Region 1, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1
Writer Michael Nankin had always intended The Gate
to be darker and more adult oriented than it ultimately became. Although it’s certainly not child’s play, the more universal appeal may be the reason the film became a sleeper success in 1987. With success comes sequels, and for Canadians the barometer for success is often much lower, which is why the $13 million haul of the original had producers knocking for a sequel. Sequels come later, and young actors get older, so perhaps now with years behind them, Nankin could finally write the more morbid film he had originally conceived The Gate
to be. Gate II
was made in 1989 but was shelved for three years until it was dumped in 1992. It made paltry box office and certainly hasn’t set video shelves afire, but with the re-release of the original on DVD, this second deserves a spin.
Glen from the first film has moved away, and instead of, you know, selling the house, they instead boarded it up in the middle of suburbia. This allows Terry (Louis Tripp
) to break in and create a computer aided séance haven to relive the good ol’ days of the first. His mom died to cancer shortly before the events in the first film, and now the fun times continue now that his dad has been fired for his alcoholism. He goes to Glen’s house for a form of escape, as a way to control fate and black magic to makeup for the lack of control he has over his own fate. Things change suddenly, though, when he sacrifices a hamster and ends up bringing back one of those little minions from the first. A couple of punks oversee the ritual and shoot the minion dead. Terry grabs the goblin and takes off, but the minion, and the portal to hell, is far from finished.
Terry preserves the little beast, eventually nursing it back to (un)health. He keeps the creature in a cage, but something else seems to be getting out. Suddenly his dad has gone cold turkey and is back at his old job, happy as ever. Could it be that those monsters from down under are actually changing the future for the better? Terry’s street smart friend and wishful love interest, Liz (Pamela Adlon
, After Midnight
, “Bubba” from King of the Hill
), proves that true, when she lights a small corvette pendent she has aflame, causing a new corvette to appear in the driveway. Terry questions the greed behind such antics, but before they have a chance to consider the consequences, they are driving the strip and making a wish list for the future. When Liz’s two thug friends, Moe (Simon Reynolds
, Saw IV
) and John (James Villemaire
, Zombi 5
) find out about the lucky demon, they literally start to burn money.
The thugs kidnap the creature and go on a spending spree. They even fulfill some pot smoker fantasy by getting the little beast high, which causes it to trip out and attack them both (seriously). Before they know it, their money is turning to shit (literally) and their bodies are slowly taken over by the evil. Terry’s dad has a terrible accident at work, too, forcing Terry to band together with Liz to capture the beast once more and send him back to hell for good. Before he deals with the beast, though, he’s going to have to deal with a whole slew of other demons, some inside and some out. The finale commences in the precipitous world between life and death, as creatures come alive and try to claim Terry once and for all.
is a sequel that could have only been made in Canada. Rather than follow a traditionally hansom lead, it instead tags along with the nerdy misfit from the original. We’ve always had an obsession with the common working man ever since our days of verite, and the tradition certainly continues here with Terry. Canadians have never been known for their levity in cinema, either, so piling on all economic and household turmoil of his father’s jobless alcoholism definitely takes a page from Goin’ Down the Road
. The tone is not all doom and gloom though, Terry manages to capture the beast by using none other than a hockey stick and pads. Sure, the film may reference Baltimore on the television, but the mindset is always canuck.
Back to the tone, though. Gate II
really is a much darker and morbid story, the kind that Nankin seemed to have wanted for the original. Less a spectacle for grandiose glowing light effects, it’s more a cerebral meditation on greed and responsibility in the AIDS era. The way the goblins now infect the loose, careless boys definitely plays on the internal menace of modern day viruses compared to the older sensibilities of the original. When one of the characters notes “it’s coming from within us”, you wonder whether he’s talking about the infection or the infected morals of the Gen X crowd. Gate II
is a more layered, complex story about internal struggle, with the subject matter seemingly growing up with its older cast. Terry’s got far more to worry about this time than just satanic records – he’s dealing with a sex drive and witnessing just what happens to when you swap blood unprotected. They’re still not adults yet, though, and there’s a line Liz says near the end that reaffirms the naivety of the AIDS generation: “it doesn’t matter what happens on the outside nothing can touch us where we really live.”
For a movie where everything literally turns to shit, there’s a surprising potency to the script. Hell, even the scatological references to money and desire seem to something fit for Pasolini, not something from teenage eighties horror. The film’s willingness to explore such a sad and depressing lead character, with all his family trauma, is also a refreshing commitment to issues over entertainment. Ultimately, though, that’s the big problem with Gate II
. It’s a morose trip this second time around – all the whimsy of the first has been replaced with a sad story of consequence. Even the relatively lively first half, with all the minion slapstick and wish fulfillment quickly dissipates for the longer second half, where the kids suffer through death and slimy makeup. It may be well written, but it’s just not fun.
Even though Randall William Cook and Craig Reardon are back on effects, even they are a major step down from the original. Where the first film seemed to represent an endless display of visual trickery and artistic design, this sequel coasts by on cheaper, less inspired staples like added slime and guys in big rubber suits. While it’s nice to once again see some forced perspective with the little gate dweller from the first film, the sad reality is that there is only one this time around compared to the bunches that propagated the original. The finale in hellish purgatory was a perfect locale for some effects creativity, but even that stagnates on cliché and poorly realized matte work. The story may have been more dreary, but the effects certainly could have been a lot more lively.
Even if the plodding second act and the overall murky tone kill the film, at least it wasn’t just a lesser budgeted rehash of the original. Both the original writer and director take the film into different directions, and many of them work well. Even if the second sequel doesn’t come close to living up to the scary movie standards of the original, it proves that the filmmakers were committed to exploring new ideas rather than cashing in on old ones. That doesn’t make it a more enjoyable movie, but at least it makes it a well intentioned one. Gate II
starts off well enough, but ultimately buries itself and throws away the key during the final acts. An interesting, if not fully enjoyable, curiosity. Oh, and PETA members…watch it right until the last frame for a treat.
The DVD is presented 1.33:1 full frame, and it’s indeed open matte. The severe headspace above every actor really ruins the compositions, although the cinematography on the whole isn’t anywhere near the caliber of the first anyway. Shot by Bryan England (Jason Takes Manhattan
), it’s not nearly as accomplished as his work on Takacs’ I, Madman. It’s a dark film, and given the VHS-level transfer here, it looks all the worse with weak contrast, murky colors and poor detail. To add insult to injury, the transfer is interlaced. The source material is at least fairly clean, and there aren’t any analog lines or distortion or anything quite that severe. Make no mistake, though, this is a budget transfer.
The sound isn’t much better, either, presented in a directionless Dolby Digital 2.0 track. The overall sound comes through soft, never as crisp or sharp as a film this late in the horror game should. Still, it’s clear and without any drop outs or distortion.
It’s clear a lot of thought went into the story for Gate II
, and even if it wasn’t entirely successful, it would still be very beneficial to hear Nankin and Takacs again talk about the film like they did on the Lionsgate special edition of the first film. Reardon and Cook didn’t really do anything interesting enough to warrant another interview this time around, but still, if they were included on a new special edition, I wouldn’t complain. I will complain about the status of this current DVD, which contains only a couple IMDb quality bios for Louis Tripp and Pamela Segall [sic]. What gives? I want my commentary with Louis Tripp! Hopefully a special edition will come one day.
is one of those dark, dreary, insular horror films that seemed so rampant throughout the very late eighties and early nineties. It’s these apathetic characters and internalized horror that really killed off the genre until Scream externalized it anew later on in the decade. Gate II
has some good intentions and certainly introduces a lot of potent AIDS metaphors and a Grimm take on greed, but after the enjoyable first half it gets too bogged down in dark effects and darker storytelling. The muddy VHS quality transfer on this DVD doesn’t really help liven the stage, and nor does the almost complete lack of extras. Gate II
isn’t really a good film, but it’s an interesting one that at least tries to forge new ground, and at the very least deserves an edition that can put all these different ideas in context. It’s worth a watch, but rent it after buying the superior sleeper original.
Movie - C
Image Quality - C-
Sound - C
Supplements - D
- Running time - 1 hour 30 minutes
- Rated PG-13
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 2.0
- French Dolby Digital 2.0