Every once in a while, I will watch a movie without reading reviews or watching some kind of preview beforehand. It is rare these days, but it does happen. I did that with the new film Beyond the Gates and, overall, I was pleasantly surprised. It starts out slow, but really picks up and captured my interest and imagination. For anyone that wants to take a chance on a film they know nothing about, this wouldn’t be the worst one to try; though one word of warning, you might not want to watch it at work.
Now, that being said, I know people look at online reviews to learn about the movie or maybe even get an opinion of the movie. So I will elaborate and potentially get spoiler-y from here.
Beyond the Gates is a low-budget horror film based on VHS horror board games from the early 90’s or late 80’s; one of which (Nightmare) I still have and I was thrilled that it got a mention in the film. Two brothers and the wife of one of the brothers get sucked into playing one such game for the sake of their father’s soul and to end the madness that starts once they start playing (a la Jumanji). It takes about a half hour for the action to start, but once it does, the audience is in for a cheesy good time.
The first half hour could turn people away. It moves along at a snail’s pace barely mentioning board games or anything sinister (the plot of the latter two-thirds of the movie). It starts with the two brothers, Gordon (Graham Skipper; Almost Human) and John (Chase Williamson; John Dies at the End), meeting up at their dad’s old video store. Their old man has been missing for months and they have decided it is time to pack up the store. Given that they are at a VHS video store, the nostalgia factor is pretty high and this first part makes it feel like the brothers re-examining their past is what the film will be all about.
However, once they find the board game, the titular Beyond the Gates, the movie starts to pick up some as they slowly realize the game has an otherworldly connection that was probably responsible for their dad’s disappearance. From there, spooky occurrences start to happen to them and around their town; all of which use real effects (no apparent CGI), some of which is awesome and creepy while others are more on the cheesy side (i.e. the scene with the voodoo doll).
I like the premise and the overall story. But the acting and writing left something to be desired. I would not necessarily say it was bad, just that the final draft could have used another read through or maybe a few more takes during filming. The characters appear emotionless frequently almost making them unlikeable at times; especially in the first half-hour, but after that it does not matter as much as there is some other plot worthy of our attention.