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Friday, June 9, 2017

Beyond the Gates (2016)

Nostalgia plays an important part in how and if I enjoy a movie. I know that there are terrible movies from my childhood that I love. I think that is likely the case with all of us. Many filmmakers try to tap into that nostalgia when making new movies so that they can take advantage of that connection the audience already has with the material. Most of the time it fails and we get a pale imitation or parody. When I read the synopsis to Beyond the Gates I was concerned that was going to happen yet again.

After a quick trip down memory lane the movie jumps to the present day. A pair of brothers, Gordon and John, are closing up their father’s video store. He has been missing for months and is assumed to be dead. The store was his obsession and still contains video tapes. The dialogue reinforces that the Dad was an analog guy and didn’t trust the digital world. While cleaning up the brothers discover an old VHS board game in the office. As a goof, they decide to play it, but quickly figure out that there is something supernatural about it. The mysterious woman on the tape gives them tasks to unlock keys that will let them finish the game and save themselves. Along for the ride is Gordon’s girlfriend Margot. Do they live? Maybe. Does this have anything to do with their father’s disappearance?  Well duh of course it does!

Familiar face?
This is a decent movie. Beyond the Gates reminds me of the kinds of tapes that I was renting in the ‘80s. Obvious low budget but executed well. It manages to tell the story without being too ambitious. This is important because nothing will ruin a movie more than trying to tell a story that you can’t afford to film. I can only remember four different locations with most of the action taking place in a house or the store. The setting of the video store filled with old tapes, many of which I recognized was a nice touch. That along with the low budget vibe reminded me of the kinds of movies I discovered on the shelves back in the ‘80s. Above I mentioned connecting with the material and I have to say I was sucked right in. The cool throwback poster was an added bonus. I could see that as the cover to a tape, one that I would rented as soon as it was in.

This movie is so subtle in how it wants to connect itself with the memories that many of us have from the independent video store days. So much so that they slipped one right past me. There is an actress that most discovered on various tapes back in the ‘80s, unless of course you were lucky enough to live in a big city where low budget horror flicks played the theaters. Well she has a decent amount of screen time, but I never noticed it was her. The fact that the movie doesn’t beat you over the head with her name or plaster it all over the poster reinforces the fact that the filmmakers were confident in their own work. *Note: I noticed that after the movie was picked up for distribution the name was added in large type to the poster. 

Never touch the creepy old board game!
After writing my review I always like to check out what others have said about the movie. I was really surprised by how many people were lukewarm on it. Normally I don’t put much credence in what others think as I’m confident in my own opinions. But after it marinated in my brain overnight I thought I’d revisit this review. I still like Beyond the Gates a lot, but will admit that the nostalgia I feel for the old video stores might play a part. I don’t think that is a criticism of the movie because that is clearly what they were going for. If you are younger and got into horror after the corporate stores took over maybe you won’t like this movie as much as I did. Still please give it a chance. On the other hand, if you share my love for the “old” days you need to check out Beyond the Gates!

© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer

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