6/07/2017

BEYOND THE GATES (Review)

Title: Beyond the Gates
Director: Jackson Stewart
Writers: Stephen Scarlata, Jackson Stewart,
Cast: Graham Skipper, Chase Williamson, Brea Grant, Barbara Crampton, Matt Mercer
Year: 2016
Min: 84

After their dad disappears two estranged brothers, Gordon and the more reckless John (Graham Skipper and Chase Williamson, respectively), meet up for the first time in years. They look through and gather the videotape remnants of their father's old school VHS rental store. In doing so, they eventually run across a VHS game called Beyond the Gates.
They pop in the tape and watch. It is hosted by the a hauntingly beautiful woman named Evelyn  (Barbara Crampton) and is shot in black and white. They decide to actually play the game later in the day, wherein Gordon's pretty girlfriend, Margot (Brea Grant) also joins them. But, things begin to get downright creepy as Evelyn speaks directly to them, names and all. She tells them that they must beat the game in order to see their father. As people begin to die, and they are haunted by increasingly horrific images and occurrences, they want to stop but cannot. As once the game starts it must be played to the end, in order from them all to live and save their father.
Beyond the Gates is the feature film debut from director/ co-writer Jackson Stewart, who cut his teeth on TV including an episode of Supernatural. This film played late last year at some festivals, but it is currently making its first major run on Netflix. While, the movie has its share of flaws, it is most definitely worth a look. There is a wonderful throwback to the 80s feel that makes it endearing.

I'll start with the movie's faults, though. The pacing is a bit off and takes a bit to start. Once the action starts rolling, though, it still has a problem keeping a consistent pace. For a good chunk of it not a lot of interest or excitement seems to happen. The climax starts off pretty good, but it doesn't have the kind of payoff that this movie needed. In fact, when it was all resolved, all I thought to myself was, ''Uh, really that's it?'' I was pissed but I wasn't fully displeased. It ultimately left me accepting it for what the resolution was.
As a director Stewart, handles the dramatic aspects decently enough. Even if, at times, they feel a bit pedestrian. The low budget aspect of the film certainly hurts it, but he does what he can. To the movie's advantage he does not hold back on the gore. While, there is not a huge body count in it, the few kills that do happen are graphic in nature.
A lot of its entertainment value is derived from the endearing quality of it. This is especially true for those of us who grew up in the 80s with VHS and, of course, VHS games. I never played a single VHS game, but I knew of them and was always curious. VHS tapes were a huge part of my growing up. And, while I feel only nostalgia towards them, but their importance is significant to anyone of my generation.
The other draw of the film is the acting. Our three heroes, played by Graham Skipper, Chase Williamson, and Brea Grant, do a good job with their roles. They play well enough off of each other and feel believable in their roles. The always beautiful horror legend Barbara Crampton is great as the VHS game host Evelyn. She seems to relish playing this evil lady and with her inherent beauty, adds a great deal of gothic sex appeal. 

A throwback and tribute to the 80s, Beyond the Gates is a flawed but fairly, entertaining movie. The pacing is slow, and at times, uneven. The resolution of the otherwise exciting climax is flat. But, the flick has a lot of heart and love for the 80s, in particular VHS and VHS games. This gives a level of an endearing quality for those who grew up in this time period. The acting is also good, and the gore is great. The presence of Barbara Crampton is a very welcome factor and helps to seal this a recommended look. With it currently streaming on Netflix, there really isn't reason to miss it.


2.5 out of 4

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