Beyond the Gates is like Jumanji if the titular game of that movie required a VCR to play. In it, a couple of estranged brothers meet up to close down their father’s video store after he turns up missing. They’re not too concerned about his absence because he’s an alcoholic who’s dropped out of their lives before, on and off ever since the boy’s mother died. The oddly unemotional hero of the film was a bit of a drinker, too, until the day he grabbed his girlfriend’s wrist a little too hard. Now he’s sworn off the stuff, a subplot which seems superfluous in the end.
An obvious influence on Beyond the Gates is the subgenre of horror films which were made for children in the 80s, such as Gremlins and The Gate. The movie is deliberately paced to reflect the slow-burn nature of those films, but I think the filmmakers miscalculated a little bit because a lot of the excuses to postpone the action are flimsy. For example, the boys now possess the key which unlocks the secret room in the back of their father’s shop, a room he forbade them from ever entering. You’re telling me that’s not the first place these guys would go snooping?
It’s in this room where they find the titular board game, which proves to be supernatural as the trailer promised. I’m not sure how much more I should give away about how the game operates. All the juicy stuff happens much, much later.
Unlike the aforementioned horror films made for children, this one is extremely bloody. It’s as if it were made for the kind of kids who grew up on movies like that, bearing in mind those children are adults now. The bloody bits are good, but few and far between. You might be saying, “Hey, Gremlins and The Gate were slow like that, too,” but I just watched the trailers for those films after watching Beyond, and they serve as a good reminder of just how much action those older movies actually had in ’em. In other words: a lot more happened in each of those films than this one.
This isn’t to say I didn’t like Beyond the Gates because I did, I just want you to know what you’re getting yourself into before you splurge on the $7 VOD price. Once again, Barbara Crampton (who takes a producer credit) proves she was born for movies like this and, despite routinely appearing in genre flicks, she’s played a bigger variety of character types than most A-movie stars have.
I wasn’t crazy about Beyond the Gates, but I found it to be pleasant to watch. I’m just not sure horror movies should be pleasant. Either way, I think these are all talented people and I’m excited to see what they do next.