Distributor: Precision Pictures
BBFC Classification: 18
Director: Jackson Stewart
Starring: Graham Skipper, Chase Williamson, Brea Grant, Barbara Crampton, Matt Mercer, Justin Welborn
Authentic retro-style filmmaking is difficult to achieve but when you can find the sweet spot it pays off dividends for the audience. Well-executed examples include House of the Devil, Lost After Dark and the Netflix original series Stranger Things. Beyond the Gates starts out on the retro note but is this just some opening notes or can we add this film as another example of a retro film done well?
Beyond the Gates was directed by Jackson Stewart, co-written by Stewart and Stephen Scarlata and stars the lovely Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator/From Beyond) and Brea Grant (Halloween II), along with Graham Skipper (The Mind’s Eye) and Chase Williamson (The Guest). It got a very late 2016 releases in the US but is finally moving to the UK on 13th February 2017. The plot centres on brothers Gordon (Skipper) and John (Williamson) who lost their mother to a car accident years before and whose father has been out of contact, presumed lost, for the past seven months. Each brother struggles with their own personal demons as well as the loss of both parents. The brothers are meeting to pack up their father’s VHS tape store. It is this store as well as other small pieces that help maintain the warm retro nostalgia captured in the opening moment. To complete the main cast, Gordon’s girlfriend Margot (Grant) meets the brothers to help them with the store. What follows is a search for Dad and maybe a search for themselves.
The boys discover an old-style VHS cassette game in the back of the store and put the tape in to watch, wondering why Dad kept it in the back. The cassette is part of a board game where you play along with directions given to you from the screen when you play the tape. Barbara Crampton is the host on the tape for this game and the brothers quickly realise once you start the game you cannot stop. The object of the game is to collect three keys and open the gates and go into the world of the beyond. The brothers surmise that they can save their father if they unlock the gates but getting those keys becomes a bloody affair as they are hidden in voodoo objects that have real life consequences on friends and people the brothers know.
Overall, it is a basic plot but smartly executed. All those acting in the film did a fantastic job and it is nice to see a film where the cast is so talented and committed to their characters and the story. What I enjoyed the most, though, was the nostalgic environment created in the beginning that carried through to the end of the film, like a warm comfortable blanket. It takes the talent of everyone involved to create and maintain this type of atmosphere.
Solid story, great cast and fantastic filmmakers give us an enjoyable demon movie with just the right amount of nostalgia. Sure, there are some issues here and there but overall they are easily overlooked and do not interfere with enjoyment of the film, and it isn’t just about the gore as along the way the brothers discover their lost relationship and the importance of family bonds. This subplot isn’t obvious but it remains just below the surface enough to be noticed, but not so much you feel like you are being hit over the head with it. The final question is when is Jackson Stewart’s next movie? For me it cannot get here soon enough. My one regret is I didn’t get to see this before I put together my Top 10 list of 2016 as I have a suspicion this might have made the cut.
UK Release Date: 13th February 2017 (Digital)/20th February 2017 (DVD)