Months after the disappearance of their father, Gordon and John take it upon themselves to pack up the father's video store and close it for good. When they happen upon an old VHS board game, they bring it home with them to have some fun for old time's sake...
There are usually a movie or two that we end up writing a full-fledged review for after having included it in our recent "Best of the Year" list. It will come as no surprise to those of you that read about our favorites of last year that this movie is one we enjoyed a lot. Personally I am very happy to see that Njutafilms have brought the movie over for release in Sweden, as some smaller budgeted gems like this one could easily get "lost".
Gordon has been away from his home town, but returns with his girlfriend Margot a few months after his father disappeared. He and his brother John have decided to clean up the father's old video store and pack up all the thousands of tapes. When Gordon finds his father's office key, they discover a tape that's still in the VCR. Curious as they are, they want to see what the last thing their father watched was, but they'll also discover that it might have a connection to his disappearance. The tape is called "Beyond the Gates", and it's a VHS board game, and once they start playing the game they have to finish it.
Taking a note from some adventurous, lighter horror movies of the '80s where kids have to fight evil, this movie is far from the dark nature a lot of modern horror. This is a fantasy-inspired and fun horror movie that knows exactly what made the old movies so entertaining, and it's not by going over-the-top stupid as so many other "homages", but rather play with scenarios that would intrigue you as a kid. What if you found a horror board game that placed you in the middle of a horror movie? It's a movie that wants to achieve that child-like curiosity and thrill, while still having a good story in the heart of it.
The movie focuses a lot on the three main characters: the two brothers and Margot. The horrors that begin to happen around them are all important to who they are. It deals with real issues such as what impact Gordon leaving town had on their father, taking responsibility, and so on. It remains a light and fun, yet somehow a mature movie. Graham Skipper and Chase Williamson manage to bring this out of their characters too, which you have to give them credit for.
The gore of "Beyond the Gates" gives off a similar vibe as in "We Are Still Here", where you don't get too much of it but when you see it you'll be secretly cheering. It's right there, out in the open, and it knows exactly how to play it off as gruesome but still mainly for entertainment. Don't go into it expecting a gore-fest, but if gore is something you enjoy in your horror movies then it's there!
Coincidentally, the movie shares another thing with "We Are Still Here", and that is Barbara Crampton. There was a period after "Castle Freak" where she didn't do that many movies, or at least I didn't notice her too much, but after a return to horror in "You're Next" she has been popping up in the most surprising places (more recently I was surprised to see her in "Little Sister"). Barbara Crampton was an underused actress even back in the day, and someone who I today view as highly as I view Dee Wallace (which is to say, at the very top). So, hooray for the return of an actress who I always hoped would play more parts in horror back in the day!
"Beyond the Gates" didn't make our Best of 2016-list because it was the most original, artistically risky or has the deepest story, but because it's a damn entertaining horror movie that reminds you of movies you grew up with. It's not a your typical modern homage that tries to reassure you every step of the way that they are referencing movies, but instead a movie that naturally grew into an atmosphere that reminds you of the '80s. That the movie is about a VHS board game certainly kickstarts that nostalgia, but the filmmakers also understood what made the classics great on a fundamental level.