By Breanna Whipple
CALGARY – “You got demons!” A bespectacled young rocker by the name of Terry exclaims to his friend, Glen, while hovering at the entrance of a treacherous pit in Glen’s backyard left from a tree excavation. Drawing this conclusion after a string of nightmarish events and with a personal fondness for a heavy metal band infamous for releasing an album containing rituals rumoured to open the gates of Hell, Terry’s rationale seems justified in the minds of the young. With Glen’s parents missing-in-action leaving only his sister in charge, it is solely the youthful mind through which this tale plays out.
Panned by some critics for being too much of a ‘Stephen King copycat’, this can likely be dismissed by a simple misunderstanding of what ‘coming-of-age’ horror truly is. Undoubtedly true that King is the master among all contributors, he, however, is not the sole proprietor. Affection for films like Monster Squad (1987), Gremlins (1984) and later television series such as Goosebumps (1995-1998) can be ignited by the exuberant imagination harnessed by children and the lack of skepticism in regards to monsters and the paranormal.
Modernizing this notion, it seems very likely that The Gate could be cited as a front-running influence for Netflix’s largely popular television program, Stranger Things. Sharing similarities in both characterization, bizarre creatures and metaphysical gates leading to unknown dimensions, a great emphasis is placed on child-based casts between both parties.
Though capable of tying this cinematic tale to the aforementioned examples, the story of The Gate feels deeply personal and drenched in realism despite its enchanting, imaginative surface. Attention to detail was seemingly of great importance to the writer, Michael Nankin, who has stated that several elements of the story stemmed from his very own childhood fears.
Despite being comfortably classifiable as family-friendly horror, The Gate doesn’t completely abandon the R-rating it was initially penned for. With a story centred around occult ritual, coupled with a generous dash of gratuitous gore, tonally this film is much darker than several of its counterparts. Bear in mind, the timing of release just so happened to be in the heightened peak of mainstream media’s ‘Satanic Panic’, in which subjects such as horror films and heavy metal were deemed unsafe for consumption.
The Gate took both forbidden fruits, combining them into a marvelous concoction. Arriving well before the heavy metal horror craze spanning from the late ’80s to early ’90s, it remains vastly unnoticed. Though appealing to headbangers all over the globe, it must be noted that several easter eggs hidden within the 85 minute runtime cater exclusively to Canadian rockers. Beginning with the Killer Dwarfs’ back patch that Terry boasts throughout the picture, extending to the title font of fictitious band ‘Sacrifyx’ being strikingly similar to Canadian thrash act’s, Sacrifice. These details may seem minor to some, however both Canadian metal and horror have been criminally underrated on a global level. To see both enshrined within a cinematic time capsule is crucial in applauding our historical alternative culture.
Catch The Gate at The Globe Cinema on Oct. 26Night Terrors, Night Terrors Film Society, The Gate, The Globe Cinema