The Gate Blu-ray Review
Whilst your parents are away, try not to open any gates to demonic worlds
It's only thanks to offbeat supernatural soft-horror films like 1987's The Gate that we now get to enjoy the great 80s throwback series, Stranger Things, even if these films were seldom any goodThe Gate had a slim outsider's chance of being engaging, whether going down the dark comedy route of Gremlins or the kids-bonding-in-times-of-terror of It, but it tries for some bland middle-ground, trading in PG thrills that leave little room for anything even vaguely horror-esque, and boasting a pretty lacklustre cadre of characters noteworthy only in that you get to see Stephen Dorff looking dumbfounded as a ten year old. The super-thin plot has a tree struck by lightning and upended, revealing, buried under the roots, a hole which has a giant egg in it. The kids take it, crack it, and all hell breaks loose.Well, that's actually it, all hell doesn't break loose, instead a group of tiny little model 'creatures' run around the house, a zombie pops up in a closet and a giant monster thing appears for no apparent reason. The effects are bad. Really bad. But even that isn't as much of an issue (c.f. The Lair of the White Worm) if you have a vaguely interesting group of characters to face whatever cheap-looking evil may be lurking for whatever badly-explained reason. The Gate doesn't develop its kids enough at the outset to hold them in good stead once things fall apart, something which Stranger Things thankfully didn't shy away from.
Picture QualityLionsgate's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release of The Gate unlocks an acceptable but eminently flawed 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen.
Given the thirty year vintage of the piece, and the clearly minimal budget, few will have any real complaints at what is likely the best presentation that the film will ever see, and certainly it looks reasonably good at the outset, only really starting to fall apart as things get darker and gloomier and the bad effects come out to play.
A faithful and authentic presentation of flawed source material
Detail offers a few nice facial observations, skin textures and background nuances, but there is a pervasive haziness and consequent softness that dominates the proceedings, with an often diffuse look which comes part and parcel with the fog-consumed mystery of it all. The colour scheme is pretty dated and has little of any spark to it, trading in pastels with no vibrancies and no primary action, and as the film shifts indoors and towards increasingly dark sequences, and the shadows encroach, the variable black levels spring to life. It's not all doom and gloom, as much of it is either derived from, or consequent to, the style of the film, and so those familiar with it will likely find it a thoroughly faithful and authentic presentation, just one which technically isn't very impressive.
Sound QualityLikely the best the film is ever going to sound
The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is dominated by an 80s synth-tastic score, revelling in the slightly derivative feel of many b-movie horrors of that era, but still delivering all the right notes, at least in terms of fond recollections of this kind of sub-sub-Carpenter synth work. Dialogue remains reasonably clear throughout, notwithstanding the acting limitations of the younger and rough-around-the-edges cast, and effects, whilst limited, afford some claustrophobic supernatural nuances, sweeping around and swirling up a moody storm, even elevating the film somewhat. It's a faithful, maybe even solid presentation of the original audio which, as with the video, even with warts and all, remains likely the best the film is ever going to sound.
ExtrasLionsgate pulls out all the stops on the extras front, delivering not one but two headlining Audio Commentary tracks, the first led by the director, whilst the second is dominated by the effects crew. There's a half-hour retrospective Documentary with the director and effects supervisor on hand to talk a little more about the production, whilst we also get an Isolated Score and associated Interview with the Composers who look behind the soundtrack.
Lionsgate pulls out all the stops on the extras front
There are a whole host of additional Interview Featurettes, looking mostly at the effects, including Minion Maker, From Hell It Came, From Hell: The Creatures and Demons of The Gate and The Workman Speaks!, as well as Made in Canada looking at the location work, and The Gatekeepers which spends time with the writer. The disc is rounded off by a couple of Galleries and some Trailers.
Blu-ray VerdictA decent enough release of an 80s cult favourite
Lionsgate's release of the 80s light supernatural horror The Gate gets a decent enough release, with the best video and audio fans could expect, but really delivers the goods on the extras front. Certainly fans should consider that a strong enough reason to pick it up.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £13.30
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