When I first heard about this film, I was beyond excited. The movie is about two brothers, whose father goes missing for seven months and they meet up to liquidate his old video store. My dad owned a video store, so this is a relevant horror movie — in my case, anyway. The film is heavy on the ’80s and ’90s nostalgia. The brothers find an old VCR board game called “Beyond the Gates” and, of course, as curiosity gets the best of them, they play.
The movie features Barbara Crampton as the hostess of the game. Horror fans will remember her from tons of old ’80s and ’90s horror films, such as Chopping Mall, Re-Animator and Trancers II. Fans of the macabre will also get gleeful joy about a film being made about those old-school VCR board games. The film definitely pulls hard from the game, Nightmare. A film version was once planned back in the day, but never got off the ground. For those interested, here is a link to a commercial for the old Nightmare game.
The film also plays tribute to old ’80s horror, such as The Gate, Waxwork and the like.
If you are an old-school horror fan, this film will be right up your ally and is a must see. However, the budget constraints are very noticeable. Nothing really important happens until about an hour in. Jesse Merlin, who plays the owner of the store from where the game came from, was just amazing. It is too bad his character wasn’t used more. There really needed to be more time spent at the actual “gate.” There needed to be a few more sets involved. There needed to be just more, in general. Looking at the $300,000 budget, I am actually surprised they couldn’t do more with what they had.
I enjoyed the premise so much, I would very much like to see this film remade with either a larger budget or with different writers at the helm. It was just very disappointing that the movie seriously takes over an hour to really get going. We don’t need that much backstory about the brothers, it’s not that relevant in a ’80s homage horror flick. I really did enjoy the film, but I am holding the producers and director up to higher standards than most indie films out there because by this time, at least Crampton, who produced, should be very familiar with how to set up a good, fast-moving horror movie.
Again, that isn’t to say it isn’t an enjoyable film, from the campy synth score to the ’80s-inspired neon cinematography. The actors are all decent, with no performance sticking out poorly, except where, perhaps, a bit of camp was called upon. The film shows a lot of potential for Director Jackson Stewart. Once again, my advice for the director is to learn to do more with the budget given. If you aren’t a big fan of ’80s-inspired films, this movie might be a bit too slow-paced for you. Fans of that kind of horror will really enjoy the film. Bottom line is the film has an amazing premise and a few nice scenes, but needs to offer more to match the brilliant concept. For that reason, I am giving Beyond the Gates three-and-a-half stars out of five and my advice to the director is to please try again. I’d love to see a more fleshed-out version of this film in a sequel.
Beyond the Gates is now streaming on Netflix.