The Gate (1987)
Directed by Tibor Takács
Friday, October 5, at 92YTribeca, part of its Basic Cable Classics series
Why aren’t there more H.P. Lovecraft-inspired kiddie horror flicks? If nothing else, The Gate suggests that prepubescent paranoia meshes very well with Lovecraftian fears of an invisible world of ancient terrors. In fact, in the film’s first scene, a young Stephen Dorff tiptoes through a mysteriously empty house as if in a dream, terrified that he’ll have to face alone whatever monsters he may find. That fantastically creepy opening scene is a potent distillation of a typical Lovecraft character’s preoccupations.
Nobody is in the house to comfort Dorff’s character, so nobody can confirm that what he’s seeing is in fact real. It’s not a dream either, which makes the systematic way screenwriter Michael Nankin and director Tibor Takács disarms their pint-sized hero pretty impressive. Nothing, not his parents, not the Bible, not his best friend, not his big sister, nor even bad metal music can save Dorff. So while the film’s cabal of knee-high, glassy-eyed, hunchbacked monsters make it seem as if Sam Raimi covertly remade Invaders from Mars, to a child these evil gremlin-things might as well be Lovecraft’s Old Gods.
The Gate reveals that the comforts of the suburbs are a crock. You may not know this, but in 1987, humanity’s last hope was a little boy with a toy model-rocket infused with the power of “truth and love.” So next time you think about Somewhere, go easy on its star. If you’d seen what he’d seen and done what he’d done at such a tender age, you’d be a mute sex fiend, too.