My Friday the 13th viewing of choice turned out to be Jackson Stewart’s recent horror film Beyond the Gates (2016), which received a screening at Monster Fest in Melbourne late last year and has now been released on DVD in Australia by Umbrella Entertainment. I’m not sure why Umbrella have chosen to release the movie only on DVD and not Blu-ray, but considering the movie itself, VHS would have been the most suitable home viewing format for it.
Beyond the Gates is a fun throwback to home video horror of the 1980s and early-90s, as well as a homage to those VCR interactive horror board games like Nightmare, which were popular for a while with a generation of kids and horror hounds. The film has two estranged brothers (and one of the girlfriends) reuniting at the old mom & pop video store that belonged to their father, who has been mysteriously missing without a trace for the past seven months. As the brothers dig through the store, packing up tapes and reminiscing uncomfortably about old times, they come across an old interactive board game called Beyond the Gates, which looks to have been the last thing their father was watching in the office before he vanished. The game, purchased from a bizarre curio shop, turns out to be a portal to another dimension, one filled with all manner of scary scenarios, and the trio, guessing the game has something to do with the father’s disappearance, have to follow the steps through to the very end if they want to save his soul, as well as their own very lives.
What I really enjoyed about Beyond the Gates is that, apart from its obvious echoing of 80s horror films like The Gate and Hellraiser (as well as a touch of the Robin Williams adventure fantasy Jumanji), there is a genuine sense of relationship and development between the two brothers (played by Matt Mercer and Graham Skipper) that is well-written by screenwriters Stephen Scarlata and Jackson Stewart. There are also a number of moments of gory frisson in the horror department, and a nice genuine tie to the films it pays homage to is established by the casting of the wonderful Barbara Crampton, star of such beloved cult classics like Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986) and Chopping Mall(1986), who is cast here as Evelyn, the beautiful and bewitching hostess of the Beyond the Gates video board game. Crampton always brings a dose of style and class to anything she appears in, and her appearance in Beyond the Gates should only help endear the movie to fans of 80s horror, while the film has enough going for it that is should also appeal to a more general horror audience.