A somewhat surprisingly allegorical film that examines the most common fears and anxieties associated with childhood, The Gate screenwriter Nankin once notably described the demonic monsters in the flick as follows, “The demons in most good horror films are metaphorical [and] representational for darker feelings, darker emotions; they are the demons within us. THE GATE is about guilt and is about Glen the hero kid’s fear of abandonment . . . His parents leave for the weekend . . . His sister is drifting away from him. Everyone’s leaving him. And these fears are basically what are the catalyst for the demons to come out.” Indeed, the boy protagonist of the film played by a very young Stephen Dorff—the mischling star of popular cinematic works ranging from Blade (1998) to John Waters’ Cecil B. Demented (2000) to Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere (2010)—has some serious yet fairly realistic psychological issues that include guilt and an unwavering fear of abandonment. A rare 1980s horror movie that is devoid of scatological stupidity, hokey humor, retarded jokes, and tasteless titillation, The Gate is a somewhat startlingly emotional horror-drama for kids about a well meaning wimp with strong principles that is forced to develop a certain degree of testicular fortitude after he and his four-eyed comrade unwittingly reawaken the Old Gods in the former's backyard.
When Al’s obnoxious teenage friends opt to attempt to levitate Glen during the party and it actually works so well that the protagonist manages to break a light upon floating up to the ceiling, they unwittingly perform another ritual that further awakens the Old Gods. At this point, the Old Gods have enough power to emotionally terrorize the protagonists with phantoms and highly personalized nightmarish hallucinations. Indeed, that night, Terry is visited by an apparition of his dead mother and immediately embraces her, only to soon realize in a horrifically heartbreaking fashion that it is actually Glen’s beloved dog Angus and that he has accidentally strangled the poor creature to death. Meanwhile, as Terry dances with the demonic phantom, Glen is awakened by ominous moths and watches in abject bewilderment as the walls of his room begin to stretch as if they have come alive. At this point, it is obvious that the house has become an extension of the demonic gate. Of course, by killing Glen’s beloved canine friend and sadistically teasing Terry about his tragic longing dead mommy, the Old Gods are seeking to emotionally destroy and isolate the little lads so that they can be easily defeated and enslaved by demonic forces, but luckily they are tougher than they look. Considering Glen's worst fear is losing his friends and family, it is only a matter of time before the Old Gods come for Al and Terry. Indeed, unbeknownst to Glen, he is a passive pawn in a demonic game of quite literally hellish proportions.
After Al is almost attacked by a virtual army of Minions upon daring to investigate the backyard, Terry forces everyone into the basement in the hope of finding a way to defeat the demons and close the gate in The Dark Book, but it spontaneously bursts into flames, so they are forced to settle on a Bible. While Terry resolves to read from Psalm 59 and the gate seems to begin to close, he is a goofy know-it-all nerd and thus predictably falls into the hole before he can finish reading. After being bitten by a Minion are two and brutally crushing one of them by rapidly stomping on it, Terry somehow manages to crawl out of the hole and read from Genesis, which seemingly seals the hole for good, or so the heroes naively think. That night, the boys get quite the surprise when a rotten ‘Workman’ (Carl Kraines)—a zombie-like being based on fictional suburban folklore about a worker that ostensibly died while working on Glen’s family home—crashes through a wall and soon begins attacking the particularly petrified yet nonetheless pugnacious preteen protagonists. Unfortunately, the Workman soon pulls Terry inside a wall where he is trapped inside. The Workman also appears in a mirror while Al is admiring her own reflection, but she is a bad little bitch and soon destroys the zombie prole by throwing a stereo at him, though his body subsequently disintegrates into a dozen or so rather speedy Minions that scramble in different directions like cockroaches. Somewhat similarly, when one of the Minions losses its arm, the limb disintegrates into a dozen or so speedy sperm-like creatures. In other words, the demonic beings seem to be immortal.
As a result of having his hand touched by the Harryhausen-esque alpha-demon, an erratic eyeball appears on the palm of Glen’s hand. Naturally, the demon is not too happy when Glen acts like an awful ingrate, rejects his new demonic status, and opts stab his new tweaker-like hand-eye. In what ultimately proves to be an absurd, albeit fitting, Deus ex machina of sorts, a powerful toy rocket—a symbol of the protagonist’s love for his sister and vice versa (or what the protagonist describes as, “love and light”)—is ultimately used by Glen to kill the dreaded Demon Lord. In fact, the rocket not only kills the big bad demon by blowing its body into seemingly millions of pieces, but it also closes the gate for good. In what ultimately proves to be the most patently absurd yet reasonably fitting of happy endings, Al, Terry, and even dog Angus emerge from closets and return to Glen in the end. Naturally, Glen is so happy to have all his loved ones back that he is not even worried about the fact that his parents’ house is completely destroyed and that he will probably be grounded for the rest of his childhood. Of course, the entire experience has not only brought him closer to his sister and best friend, but has also transformed Glen from a whiny wimp to a real mensch.
Undoubtedly, if I ever have kids, which is questionable due to my increasingly shitty health and complete and utter disillusionment with dames and relationships, I will be sure to show them The Gate at a very young and impressionable age. I can certainly remember my somewhat hidden excitement when the girl that shared the same political, aesthetic, and comical tastes as me revealed that she also loved the film as a child, which is rather fitting since she reminds me of a more beauteous version of the character Al. Indeed, although I certainly do not want to sound like some faggot feminist cuck that gives girls credit where credit is not due, The Gate also has the distinction of featuring a rare example of a likeable and memorable teenage girl character and not the sort of completely phony and fiercely feministic all-competent ‘Mary Sue’ archetype that is quite typical of Hollywood films nowadays. In short, it is hard to find anything to dislike about the film, but one should not expect anything less from a surreally demonic Pandora's Box story where teenage girls say sassy things like “fagging off,” a morbidly cynical preteen metalhead slow dances with a dead dog that has taken the form of his dead mother, and a very young and neurotic Stephen Dorff cries like a little girl after falling victim to the darker side of levitation.