I haven’t watched a lot of “Kids on Bikes” movies and fiction – I’ve seen ET, Explorers, and The Goonies, and as of this writing am currently in the middle of reading IT (which is something of a Kids on Bikes story for the flashback sequences) but I haven’t seen or read any of the other works that really feed into subsequent works like Stranger Things. I haven’t seen Monster Squad, and until recently, I hadn’t seen The Gate – a lesser-known work in the genre that I hadn’t heard about until Giant Bomb did a “Film and 40s” commentary for it with the Giant Beast crew. Well, this oversight has, at long last, been rectified.
The Gate was made in Ontario, Canada, but is definitely meant to reflect the sort of anywhere suburban sprawl that is evoked in films like Poltergeist – in this case focusing on the kids from a couple of families in the suburbs – Glen (Stephen Dorff) and Terry ( Terry Chandler). Terry is a metalhead whose dad travels frequently, so Terry spends a lot of time at Glen’s house.
Over the course of one weekend, while Glen and his older sister Alexandra (or “Al” – Christa Denton) are basically home alone while their parents are on vacation, Glen and Terry discover that a hole in Glen’s backyard is a portal to hell, and the three – Glen, Terry, and Al – must contend with this demonic incursion, and somehow close the titular Gate.
To make the scope of The Gate clear – while the film aspires to the scope of something like Poltergeist, the production values are somewhat above other Canuxploitation films like My Bloody Valentine and some of Cronenberg’s earlier films. The film has some really neat effects shots, and the acting is absolutely on-point. The writing gets kind of rough in a few areas, and the film kind of just ends.
That said, the film gets the idea of being a kid that is intrinsic to the “Kids on Bikes” sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, and horror – the mindset as a kid that you are smarter than adults give you credit for, but you are not as smart as you think you are. The genre gets this across through the kids getting themselves into significant peril, and then ultimately getting themselves back out of it, by the skin of their teeth and with a stronger sense of their own limitations.
Consequently, I’d consider The Gate to be something of a hidden gem of ’80s horror, and if you’re considering putting together a “Kids on Bikes” horror film viewing list, this is definitely a film to include.
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