[This film was released on DVD by Precision in February 2017.]
Veteran scream queen Barbara Crampton has made quite an impact since returning to the horror genre with 2011’s You’re Next, but this neatly-constructed collaboration between Supernatural alumnus Jackson Stewart (making his debut as a feature director) and co-writer Stephen Scarlata (Final Girl) takes us back in spirit to her original run on such 1980s classics as Re-Animator and From Beyond.
Drawn home by the sudden disappearance of their father, estranged siblings John (Chase Williamson, John Dies at the End) and Gordon (Graham Skipper, Almost Human) search for clues in the family-owned video store. Discovering a vintage video board game amongst the dusty stacks of VHS tapes, the brothers – now joined by Gordon’s girlfriend Margot (Heroes regular Brea Grant) – decide to shake the dice and follow the missing manager into the mysterious realm dominated by sinister host Evelyn (Ms Crampton). By the time it dawns upon the trio that events within play have violent echoes in reality, it’s already too late: they must finish the game, or the game will be the finish of them.
What Beyond the Gates lacks in true originality is made up for in the central three performances (Skipper is especially effective, fleshing out what could so easily be a two-dimensional introvert with hints of Gordon’s darker side) and a gently stated period charm in the art direction and visuals (although the main action is presumably set a couple of decades after the store’s 1992 opening, both lighting and practical make-up effects could have come from any horror movie in its original stock).