Directed by: Tibor Takacs
Written by: Michael Nankin
Produced by: Andras Hamori
Reviewed by: Brett H.
ďThis isnít Satanism, this is something else, isnít it?Ē
ďYeah, itís demonology. Satanism is for pussies.Ē
ďYeah, itís demonology. Satanism is for pussies.Ē
In the world of Canadian horror cinema, the sequel is somewhat of a rarity. Prom Night is the most well known Canadian horror series and Ginger Snaps received recognition with a couple cash-ins, but thatís about as far as it goes. An interesting little Canadian flick entitled, The Gate, was met with much fandom in 1987 and in the world of horror, that nearly always spells sequel. Thus, there was no surprise when The Gate 2: Return to the Nightmare was released in 1992, two years after it was completed. Whereas the first film of the duo from hell had to do with children battling demons in their backyard, The Gate 2 takes on more of a nineties horror vibe thatís somewhere between a direct to video movie and something tame youíd catch on late night TV. Itís completely different than the original, yet maintains one of the original characters and builds on foundations discovered in the first. Not to mention, The Gate 2 retains the original writer and director (who happens to have the funnest name to say on the planet, Tibor Takacs). But, one must wonderÖ was it really essentially to open The Gate one more time?
Itís been a few years now since the incident at Terry Chandlerís (Louis Tripp) friend, Glenís, house. Terry is now in his middle teens and whereas most of the time the child is struggling with raging hormones and emotional problems, instead Terryís dad is having the problems. Itís not fully explained whatís causing the troubles, but those who have seen the original can understand right away. Terryís mother died and by now Terryís dad has lost his job and has a severe alcohol problem. Terry speaks to his passed out father about his adventurous night just a few years ago when he battled everything hell could throw at him, and surprisingly, he speaks of it highly. It was the most exciting part of his boring life and now heís back to the mundane, to top it off the viewer can assume his old buddy Glen has moved away, as the house across the street where hell broke loose is still in ruins. To cure his fatherís alcohol problems, Terry has only one choice. He has to raise some hell.
Terry goes back to Glenís house and performs a sťance, conjuring up demons that would grant him his wishes. Clearly not thinking things through, he begins his ritual before being interrupted by the local badasses. The leader, John (James Villemaire), the dumb sidekick, Moe (Simon Reynolds) and the hot Liz (Pamela Segall/Adlon) all decide that they want to take part as well, although neither men believe much in it. Liz is a believer, though, and as the ritual takes place it becomes apparent that she is right. The four young people see ďthe other sideĒ and are met by a minion in the real world. One single, tiny demon returns with them and all wishes are granted, but they go to shit (literally) soon enough. With the help of the ever-sexy Liz, Terry must battle the dark side once again. And this time, itíll take him to hell and back.
The Gate II surprised me in the sense that it was not nearly as bad as its reputation suggests. The majority of the sour grapes must stem from the fact that it strays so far in tone from the original and the people who enjoy The Gate with nostalgia see a piece of their childhood being transformed into a common nineties horror offering. Of course, this differs drastically from the lovely eighties vibe the original was enveloped in. It could also be due to the fact that The Gate 2 grew into a more Night of the Demons or Demons inspired effort. The stop motion is still there, but one mere minion is featured and they are the best part of the original and scenes featuring full sized demons are mixed with both stop motion and actors in makeup. Not only that, but the film features a much more comedic tone than the original and some of the creepy atmosphere is thrown out the window.
So, the differences have been covered, but at least we are treated to the character of Terry returning for a second joyride as well as keeping his back story in tact. The very sweet Liz is cute and takes a liking to the nerd looking Terry and the other characters are fun to laugh at, especially Mo. Heís slow, led by the badass, but you can tell deep down heís just a gullible loser making up for any time heís going to miss out on as he has a heart condition. The father/son relationship between Terry and his dad is sincere, and it sort of makes it so his dad is the new Glen seeing as Terry doesnít appear to have any friends until Liz comes his way. As entertaining as the story is, there is some rough around the edges, which is to be expected. Terry knows better than to open the gateway to hell for what would be a one-day solution to his problems (he says later in the film that thereís consequences or a limit to their effectiveness) and A.A. is always there for help. On the flipside it could be viewed as a confused adolescent doing what he thinks is right for his father and trying to make the least amount of tension arise as possible.
As far as the demons go, the single minion provides a lot of entertainment and is actually shot and killed at the beginning. Terry keeps him in a jar of formaldehyde and he comes back to life before being caught and kept in a birdcage. As a throwback to the original, he has Motley Crue posters in his room and tells Liz that the minion is the demon equivalent to a roadie in rock ní roll. This analogy is actually quite valid, especially to the original Gate as well as horror in general. Slash (of Guns Ní Roses fame) said in his book that with drugs and partying brings close calls and though a concert overall may be a bit sloppy, ďbut we are talking about a rock ní roll band, after allĒ, the show would go on. The same thing could be said for a horror film. Sure, thereís some weird plot twists, a totally unnecessary ending and many stupid decisions made in The Gate 2, but thatís just the way horror is and it will continue to be. Would we want it any other way? Like the original, Canadian content in the film is dim (other than the fact it was lensed in Ontario), the only aspect that could be considered Canadian is a scene where Terry dons hockey equipment when going after the minion (and smacks him with a mean shot). Money? American currency.
With many comedic scenes (including one laugh out loud scene involving Moe taking a hit off a joint and blowing it into a bag containing a minion), the movie moves along at a decent pace and only drags a tad and has a decent and somewhat tragic ending that is made unnecessarily rosy in the filmís final moments. The Gate 2 has one standout scene, where the characters are in hell and itís sort of like a more gothic version of Lucio Fulciís vision in his classic, The Beyond. This is different from the atmosphere of the original, but adds some tone to a film that generally lacks it throughout the middle. This Canadian exclusive DVD released by Alliance is a full frame transfer and looks like a VHS, but at least the print isnít in too bad of shape. The lone features on the budget disc are a couple of bios for Louis Tripp and Pamela Segall. The Gate 2 is funny, itís a bit off the wall and itís a bit rough around the edge, but it is a horror movie, after all. One manís trash is anotherís treasure and although I wouldnít classify this as a forgotten gem by any means, it deserves to be seen by fans of the original and open-minded horror fans alike. Conjure up The Gate 2 from its demonic slumber and have a fun time! Rent it!
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