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The Gate

1987, Starring Stephen Dorff, Christa Denton, Louis Tripp, Kelly Rowan, Jennifer Irwin. Directed by Tibor Takacs.

When The Gate was released in Canada, it turned out to be a big moneymaker. There's good reason for that: the special effects are quite notable for a Canadian film, and the direction succeeds in creating an appropriately nightmarish tone. While watching it, you're never really sure exactly what's going on if a particular scene is a dream, or reality. It's an atmosphere in which anything can happen, and frequently does.

The night before Glen (Dorff) and his sister Al's parents leave for their vacation, a large meteor strikes the tree in their suburban backyard. The next morning, nothing is left but a huge, gaping hole. Curious, Glen and his friend Terry go and check it out, you know, cause they're kids and stuff. They retrieve the meteor, and take it back to Glen's bedroom to study it. Suddenly, it breaks open and a strange gas escapes that leaves weird words and symbols on a pad on Glen's desk. They read the words, and unbeknownst to them, the hole in the backyard starts smoking. After more strange events, Terry decides to sleep over, and they both have nightmares. Worse, Glen awakens to find that his dog is dead.

The next day, Terry goes home to forget his bad dreams with some righteous air guitar. He puts on his Sacrifyx album and rocks out in front of a bed sheet on his wall with "METAL" spray-painted on it (now that's production values!). As he is casually flipping through the album notes, he comes across the same symbols they saw on the pad in Glen's room. After reading further, he rushes back to explain to Glen that they may have accidently opened a portal to Hell by reciting the words. Of course, this is from the time when liner notes actually mattered. None of this "I'd like to thank God, my parents and Wu Tang Clan," these albums actually contained useful information such as how to open and close the gates to Hell.

Believing that one component of the portal opening ceremony was not completed (a sacrifice), Terry and Glen play the album backwards in order to learn how to close the gate before they do any more damage. They perform the closing ceremony, and it works. Well, not really, since Al's boyfriend already buried the dog in the hole without anyone realizing, thus opening the gate. That's when the demonic minions start to appear. Undoubtedly the highlight of the film, the demons are beige, tough-skinned creatures with horns. They stand only one foot tall, but there are dozens of them and they attack Glen, Terry, and Al. Sacrifyx's album bursts into flames, and Terry is reduced to reading bible passages in a vain attempt to close the hole before he accidently falls in.

From here on out, it's basically just a parade of impressive special effects in which it is difficult to tell if Glen is dreaming, or it is all really happening. A phone melts, Glen's dad's face decomposes in his hands, and zombies emerge from the walls. It's all quite impressive, but before you know it, it's time to get back to the plot. Terry and Al are dragged into the wall of the house by a couple of those pesky wall zombies, leaving Glen alone to face the head demon, who has risen out of a new hole in the foyer of his house.

The Gate is obviously geared toward younger viewers, with an emphasis on effects and mild scares rather than gore or sex. As a result, this film's movie magic will make you appreciate old school effects like stop motion animation. As the CGI machine keeps rollin' on, The Gate can remind us that computer graphics are still inferior to the creations of special effects wizards, such as the real creative force behind this film? Randall William Cook. Although not particularly Canadian, the first installment of The Gate is enjoyable enough, and it is ridiculously better than the sequel, in which a teenage Terry captures one of the minions and has his wishes granted. So what's the missing ingredient that makes The Gate II so inferior? Cook's magic, of course.

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