Release Date(s)1987 (February 28, 2017)
Studio(s)New Century Vista Film Company/Vestron Video/Lionsgate (Vestron Video Collector's Series)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A+
The Gate was released in 1987 and became a cult favorite through repeated cable airings and VHS rentals, outlasting many of its peers even today. Directed by Tibor Takacs, who also directed the sequel The Gate II: Trespassers and I, Madman, the movie tells the story of young Glen who accidentally finds an underground pit in his backyard when digging around for geodes. He, his friend Terry, and his sister Al reluctantly find themselves having to look for a way to stop the demonic forces from coming out of the pit before it’s too late for all of them.
Despite seeing a lot of movies when I was young, I somehow missed The Gate. I distinctly remember seeing the VHS sitting on the shelf at the video store too, but it wound up being one of those movies that just flew under my radar. When I did eventually see it, I was expecting something more akin to a Fulci movie based on the cover alone, which made it seem that it had the potential to be a lot more horrific than it actually wound up being. To say the least, The Gate is a more fun movie than I imagined. Besides being a horror movie about kids that are treated like real people (a particular nitpick of mine), it also features lots of good special effects, effective stop-motion animation (courtesy of the great Randall William Cook), and eerie imagery that resonates and manages to stick with you. In the vein of The Monster Squad, it’s a little more bleak by comparison, which makes it effective in a different way.
Vestron Video’s transfer of the film is in great shape. Besides the softness it exhibits due to the use of opticals for many of the special effects sequences, there’s also an uptick in grain, but the overall look is film-like with strong fine detail. Depth is generally good, and textures definitely benefit from a bump up in quality. Colors, while good, never really pop like they should, and skin tones don’t always look all that natural either. Black levels are solid, even though there isn’t much to shadow detailing, which is something that’s baked into the film itself. Overall brightness is good, although contrast seems slightly high. There’s also not much leftover in terms of damage, other than some mild speckling, but there is some minor wobble in a few places. It’s quite a clean and stable presentation otherwise. The audio comes as an English 2.0 DTS-HD track, and it’s definitely on par with the video presentation, if not better. Sound effects definitely move back and forth at times, particularly during the ending, and dialogue is always clean and clear. Score benefits as well, coming through with terrific clarity. Some surprising low end activity was also present. Even though the transfer is bound to be nitpicked to death by hardcore videophiles, this is definitely an upgrade in the A/V department. Subtitles are also included in English SDH and Spanish.
For the supplemental materials, everything has been carried over from the previous Special Edition DVD release, with a bunch of new stuff added, making it a regular plethora of extra material to dig through. There are two audio commentaries, one with director Tibor Takacs, writer Michael Nankin, and special effects designer & supervisor Randall William Cook, and the other with Cook, special make-up effects artist Craig Reardon, special effects artist Frank Carere, and matte photographer Bill Taylor; an isolated score and audio interview track with composers Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson; The Gate: Unlocked retrospective featurette; Minion Maker, an interview with Reardon; From Hell It Came, an interview with co-producer Andras Hamori; The Workman Speaks, an interview with actor Carl Kraines; Made in Canada, a series of interviews with production manager Robert Wertheimer, costume designer Trysha Bakker, third assistant director Kathleen Meade, “Minion” performer Jonathan Llyr, actor Scot Denton, and post-production supervisor H. Gordon Woodside; From Hell: The Creatures & Demons of The Gate with Cook and Reardon; The Gatekeepers with Takacs and Michael Nankin; a vintage Making of The Gate featurette; the teaser and theatrical trailers; a TV spot; an animated storyboard gallery; and an animated behind the scenes gallery.
Vestron Video’s presentation of The Gate is one that will happily delight fans of the movie, old and new. With a solid presentation and a wealth of bonus material, it’s definitely one of their best releases thus far. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons