Beyond the Gates centers around two estranged brothers who are forced to come together after their father has been reported missing for the past 7 months. Gordon (Graham Skipper, Almost Human) the strait-laced older of the two, does not try to hide his distaste of his more dysfunctional younger brother, John (played by Chase Williamson, John Dies at the End). However, the two must join forces after discovering a mysterious horror-themed board game, incorporating a VHS tape, that may hold the key to their father’s disappearance.
Beyond the Gates is a hugely well-crafted thriller with a multitude of strengths, not least of which is the chemistry between the main characters and their ability to make their interactions seem completely natural. In the very beginning, as Gordon and John meet up, their personalities clearly clash against one another. This cinema magic continues when Gordon’s girlfriend Margo (played by Brea Grant, The Devil’s Dolls) arrives on the scene. She is irresistibly charming and she definitely adds depth to the story. There are many valuable exchanges as the premise unravels, which gives the viewer context for more than what is presently happening onscreen.
While the main concept of Beyond the Gates may seem cheesy and overdone at first, i.e. an unknown source having to do with someone’s disappearance, I implore you to give this movie a chance. First of all, the VCR game, which title is naturally also Beyond the Gates, has an insanely creepy hostess that breaks the fourth wall in an eerie way.
The hostess, a pale, blonde-haired, mysterious lady with stunningly piercing eyes is Evelyn (played by Barbara Crampton, the cult horror icon herself!) and she quickly lets the three in on her power and influence. Evelyn is a fantastic villain throughout the film and, as the movie progresses, the viewer will become more uneasy at hearing her voice after each strange occurrence. And the board game itself, while it is simple, does a great job of being a source of fear and fascination throughout the character’s ordeal.
Beyond the Gates also paces itself quite nicely. It takes its time in the beginning with introducing the central characters, adding an element of naturalism as though we have just stepped into their lives. The initial scenes also have some well-placed, very tense moments of their own. By the time the action begins proper, it is the next step rather than a forced instance after 45 minutes of introductory information.
Beyond the Gates is a non-stop roller coaster with endless twists and turns to keep the viewer guessing. There are brutal acts of violence that accompany “completing the game” as well as creepy night-time sequences that haunt the three as they try to sleep. The concept of the board game is a creative mixture between a table-top game, the infamous Ouija board, and a role-playing video game from hell.
My only complaint with Beyond the Gates would have to be that the ending seems a little too convenient after Gordon, John, and Margo have been through hell and back. The film seems to end quite suddenly and perhaps could have done with a few more minutes to settle down. However, this is a small gripe and overall, I cannot recommend this movie enough. It is intensely imaginative, creepy, the performances are top-notch across the board and really, Beyond The Gates is just an all-around fantastic horror flick for any occasion.
Beyond The Gates opens in select theaters on December 9th, along with VOD and digital platforms
WICKED RATING: 8/10
Director(s): Jackson Stewart
Writer(s):Jackson Stewart, Stephan Scarlata
Stars: Chase Williamson, Barbara Crampton, Graham Skipper, Brea Grant
Studio/ Production Co: IFC Midnight
Release date: December 9th, 2016
Length: 84 min