Andrew “King of Horror” Guthlein of Talking Terror returns to our series for a 3rd year, and takes us back to his childhood to share his memories of 1987’s The Gate. “King” not only praises the film’s representation of children in horror, but also makes an argument for its heavy metal credibility.
As Halloween approaches and I assault my children’s eyes and minds with a barrage of televised horror films in preparation for a night of begging for candy, I can’t help be reminded how Halloween more than any other holiday is about the children. As we grow into adults, we just keep that part of childhood with us as we continue to celebrate the day (and for some of us, the entire month) each year.
As always, it’s an honor to have “King” joining us once again. You can catch King, The Ghoul, The Mad Monkey, and the Demonic Doc for new episodes of Talking Terror each Wednesday night at 9pm EST. https://www.blogtalkradio.com/talkingterror
Terry is the most metal kid in any horror movie ever. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and think of a more metal kid than Terry in any horror movie ever made. Sure, you could give an honorable mention to Marc Price in Trick or Treat from 1986, but is he really THAT metal? Now, I’m sure there’s some of you out there asking yourselves, ‘Who the hell is Terry and why do I care? When is this guy going to get to the point of his article?’ Great questions, and it leads me to the point of my entry for Halloween Horrors 2019. I was given the letter “G” by our fearless leader of Horror and Sons, and instantly, I knew what my topic would be.
As I fire up the horror time machine, make sure you go ahead and grab your copy of Sacrifyx’s “The Dark Book” because we’re heading back to 1987, where I want to talk about the Tibor Takacs’ film, The Gate. To be clear, this won’t just be a straight forward review of the film. I want to talk about my experiences over the years watching The Gate, as well as why I tend to recommend this title to parents with children. Trust me, it will make sense eventually. Also, I feel that The Gate should be talked about more as it often gets neglected with all the other more iconic horror movies that were released during that time. So, let’s open up that gate and pray that it’s not too late!
So, I can’t speak for any of you reading this, but when I was young, I was left alone a lot. Both of my parents worked and my brother, being older than I was, tended to go hang out with his friends and leave me in the care of that glowing babysitter; the television. As you can imagine, without having much in terms of viewing restrictions, I watched anything and everything. I still remember being far too young to watch the finale of Robocop, where one of the bad guys gets turned into human soup when hit by a car. It didn’t affect me. As a matter of fact, I wanted more movies like that.
I would end up watching movies that were constantly airing on the big movie channels back in the 90’s, and one of them was The Gate. As a matter of fact, when I think back to being a little kid and getting into horror movies, the two movies I tended to watch more than the others were Lady in White (1988) and The Gate. Both had things in common, and that one common thread was children in peril, without the quick and swift help of a parent or person of authority. Many films that I viewed since my younger years have featured teens having to fight a masked killer or zombies without the aid of a nearby adult, but they were teenagers, not children.
So, what is the movie about? Well, the film revolves around two friends, Glen (played by a very young Stephen Dorff) and Terry (Louis Tripp). Glen comes off as your All-American boy that has an interest in rockets, while Terry (with his large eyeglasses) likes to wear heavy metal band t-shirts and jean vests littered with buttons and spikes. (Killer Dwarfs forever!) He also tends to be home alone often due to his father’s job as a pilot taking him out of town frequently. The upside? Terry can blast the Sacrifyx and drape rainbow bed sheets over him as he recites lines from “The Dark Book”. I tended to relate to Terry back then and still do now. He didn’t strike me as the type that had many friends and he was used to being on his own a lot.
Myself? I had a jean vest that had a ton of metal and punk rock band buttons on it and many patches. I wanted the world to know that I loved bands like Twisted Sister, Metallica, AC/DC, The Misfits, Sex Pistols, Black Sabbath, The Ramones, and Van Halen (Not metal or punk rock, but still very cool. Roth era only of course).
The boys find a large geode in Glen’s backyard following a tree being removed. Of course, what is the worst that can happen from that? We also get introduced to Glen’s older sister; Alexandra (Christa Denton), who will seriously give you the valley girl eye if you call her “Al”. She is tasked with watching after her brother when their parents realize that they’re in a horror movie and need to go out of town. With that, we get a huge house party! Since it’s the 80’s, all the teens are sucking down cheap beer and smoking cigarettes in such volume that you question how Al (I mean Alexandra!) will ever get the stench of smoke out of that house. At the party, Glen is picked by the teens to play “light as a feather, stiff as a board”. He levitates to the ceiling and rips out an entire light fixture before falling and running away to his room to cry.
Following a dream/nightmare that Terry has while sleeping over, Angus the dog is found dead. After listening to Sacrifyx, Terry deduces that the hole in Glen’s backyard is actually a gateway to hell and that for it to be fully opened, the hole needs a sacrifice. Well, no problem there, right? Actually, no, because as we learn, you should never trust your crush to take care of the deceased family pet. They’ll only be lazy and dump it into the convenient large hole in your backyard. Sure, your crush may be dreamy, but they are far from trustworthy!
After reading the liner notes of “The Dark Book”, Glen and Terry discover the hole has disappeared… and I guess that’s when we roll credits right? Of course not! This is a horror movie and the horror is coming… in the form of little demons that look like they were blasted in the face with a cast iron skillet! These little guys can take the form of an undead construction worker, large hands to grab you from under the bed, and even in the form of Glen’s parents! (Youuuuu’ve been baaaaaaaad!) Just like heavy metal music, it’s a scene that melts faces, literally! While under attack. Glen, Terry, and Alexandra escape to the hole where all of the trouble began, and Terry does the most metal thing in the entire movie: he throws a copy of the Bible into the hellish hole which causes an explosion that essentially seals the hole!
Rolls credits? Nope. Not so fast, dear reader. This movie is still rolling on!
Terry and Alexandra end up being taken by the demons, leaving Glen alone in the fight against unholy terror. Understanding that Terry and Alexandra are the two sacrifices needed to bring about total Hell on Earth, Glen realizes that in order to stop it he will need to use a symbol of love, which is in the form of a toy rocket (“The Thunderbolt”) that Alexandra bought him for his birthday. It’s a good thing that this model rocket is impressively large because the monstrosity that emerges in the middle of Glen’s house is not going to go down with just some puny toy.
This large serpentine demonic creature is finally taken down by the successfully launched Thunderbolt and order begins to be restored. Terry, Alexandra, and Angus all emerge seemingly unharmed and grateful that the whole ordeal is over. As the film ends, the trio exits the wreckage of the house and sits on the front stoop as the sun begins to shine on a nearly cloudless day. Suck it evil! You were no match for Glen and his interest in model rockets! However, how are they going to explain the demolished house to the parents? To me, there’s nothing more terrifying in the world than an angry parent. Sorry, demons! You just can’t cut it when it comes to the wrath of a pissed off Mother or Father!
The Gate is a movie that I could relate to. It was about two close friends that you can tell care about each other. Glen has an older sister, as I have an older brother. It was such a similar dynamic in my life where Alexandra just wanted to be the teen girl she was becoming and hang out with her friends, but knowing that she was leaving her little brother behind. My older brother would often do the same, but in time would do his best to make time with me. Terry loved metal, and I’m sure horror movies, just like I did (and still do). So, the fact I could relate to the characters made the film so much more memorable.
Sure, the effects are a little cheesy and the acting isn’t the best, but those things are easily overlooked when watching The Gate. The movie has real heart and manages to show you that children don’t need parents to destroy evil… and what is more metal than that? It’s also a significant reason as to why, when I’m asked by parents about horror movies they can introduce their kids to, The Gate comes up often. Yes, the movie has its scary moments, as I remember having to do the “leap into bed” move after watching the movie. However, I also understood that the reason I did that is because the movie was just that good! I never had any nightmares following watching The Gate, and the reason I recommend it so often is because I always feel that kids should see horror movies where it’s not all about nudity and gore. It’s about kids coming together and fighting evil.
While I feel obliged to mention that a sequel was made in 1990 titled The Gate II: Trespassers (and also known as The Gate II: Return of the Nightmare). It is an unfortunate sequel that loses so much of that heart I spoke about earlier. Louis Tripp returns as a more grown up Terry (Now wanting to be known as Terrence), only briefly explaining that Glen moved away after the events of the first film and that the house was never truly repaired. It has some decent moments, but overall it’s a general disappointment. There was mention back in 2011 that Alex Winter (Yes, that Alex Winter from the Bill and Ted movies and The Lost Boys) was planning on remaking The Gate and releasing it as a 3D movie. Sadly, that movie was never made, but (in a way) I wish it had because I think that remake would have been …most excellent!