Thursday, October 4, 2018

31 Days of Dread--Day 4

Beyond the Gates; 2016; written by Jackson Stewart & Stephen Scarlata; directed by Jackson Stewart

Set your watches back. About thirty years or so. When movies--and a few novelty board games--were played on VHS. Horror films were lit in super-saturated shades of fuchsia and purple. Their stories might have been a bit creaky, but the blood-soaked special effects did their best to make up for it. 

That's the era and type of film Beyond the Gates hopes to honor, and mostly succeeds at. 

Stars Graham Skipper and Chase Williamson play two brothers--one slightly nerdy, the other somewhat ne'er-do-well--whose father has been missing for seven months and is presumed dead. They meet up to go through his nearly defunct video rental store, where they find the eponymous board game way, way back in the office.

They learn that the mystery of their father's disappearance can only be solved by playing the game. Which of course they shouldn't do. But of course doesn't stop them. And before you know it, one of their girlfriends is possessed, a weird gate has appeared in the basement, and there's heavily backlit fog all over the place. 

The film's indie pedigree provides both its charms and rough edges. The practical sets have a slightly claustrophobic feel and some of the game's challenges resolve themselves a bit too neatly. But what Beyond the Gates lacks in finesse it makes up for with enthusiasm and unpredictability.

And perhaps most important, it really does look and feel like something that was released direct-to-video, was forgotten for a few decades, and has just risen from the dead.

Beyond the Gates is available on Netflix and streaming rental.

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