A couple of kids unwittingly perform a rite which opens a gate to a demonic underworld in their backyard. The freed demons are now attempting to create Hell on Earth, and it’s up to the boys to stop them.
I had pretty high hopes for this movie. Any film that casts kids as the main characters probably can’t be taken too seriously, but the preview made it look like a fun little spinoff of The Goonies with a horror twist. Such was not the case.
The Gate wasn’t horrible. It started out ok, with these two bozo kids just screwing around in the back yard and unknowingly performing a step-by-step ritual that opens up the gate to Hell. Hey, it could happen to anybody. But after a while the story plateaus when one of the kids just sort of freaks out in a quasi-reality mindfuck for a while before the plot finally gets back on the rails and everything is wrapped up.
The movie stars a young Stephen Dorff, before his acting career devolved into playing bit parts in Aerosmith music videos. One night lightning knocks down the tree in his backyard, blowing his tree fort to shit and leaving a giant hole in the ground. He and his buddy snoop around the crater and pull out a big ol’ geode. Incidentally, his buddy looks exactly like John Clayton.
So these kids bust open the geode, which happens to be the first step in some mystical ritual to open up the gate to Demonland. They then go on to do some other shit – bleed all over the hole, speak aloud the sacred text written on the back of a heavy metal record, and toss a dead dog in the hole – and the next thing you know they’ve got little demons running all over the place. Nice going, twerps!
A large portion of screen time is dedicated to the boys and Dorff’s sister running and hiding from the demons. However, these little guys are each about the size of a football. At one point one of the kids even falls in the hole in the back yard and is attacked by a group of them, but he comes out no worse for wear. And yet it never occurs to the group to try and fight these little fuckers.
Dorff’s buddy and his sister get captured by the demons and are supposedly sacrificed in order to complete the ritual. Now that all the little peon demons did their job, it’s time for the head demon to come out and post up as the figure head of demonic intimidation. This guy is a giant axolotl who comes crashing up through the floor of the house and is one demon you do not want to mess with.
At this point things seem pretty hopeless for Dorff and the rest of humanity. His dog is dead, his best friend and sister have being carried off by demons to be sacrificed, and there is a gigantic salamander coming up through his living room floor. But if he’s going down, he’s going down swinging. Our hero faces this menacing force and shoots a toy rocket literally into the belly of the beast. And, wouldn’t you know, that was the chink in the armor all along.
Where are the neighbors during all of this?
Yayy! The demons are gone! And guess what – Dorff’s buddy and his sister are back! And not only that – that dead dog is back too! Everything’s back to normal! Well, not quite – they’ll still need to explain to their parents why there’s a giant hole in the living room floor.
After writing about The Gate I’m going to change my tune. At first I said it wasn’t the great. And while it is pretty stupid, it still is a lot of fun. Thus I compare this movie to an innocuous marshmallow roast: it may not be anything close to an all-out bonfire, but it is fun, sweet, and at times gooey. I also have to tip my hat to the special effects – there was a lot of stop-motion animation which I love, especially when compared to all the CGI pollution we see today.