Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Beyond the Gates Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After their father's disappearance, two brothers stumble across a video board game that comes to life.

Review: Here we go again..."Beyond the Gates" could--no, should--have been something extraordinary! Instead, this was an enormous waste of potential and indescribable letdown. With a story that had all the makings of a love letter to the 1980s, I can't understand what the hell happened. Yeah, the budget was peanuts, but, still, virtually everything is off--from the tone to the style to the general aesthetics. Other than a couple synth tracks and the VHS tapes, there's nothing else worthwhile. I mean, I'm picturing this shit to be like "Jumanji" meets "Night of the Demons" or something along those lines. What we get is a whole lot of bullshitting in order to eat up a ridiculously short running time. Seriously, take away the end and opening credits (which were cool by the way), and you're left with a 75 minute film comprised of mostly unrealistic yapping. Argh.

In fairness, the core premise is fucking amazing! You have a cursed, or haunted, video board game that comes to life, altering reality in deadly ways. Two brothers, kids of a father who owned a video rental store (with an affinity for the VHS medium), are dragged into this game in order to free their missing father and save their own lives. Unfortunately, we do not get some epic adventure or bizarre story reminiscent of "The Dungeonmaster." Oh no. The brothers don't start the game until the 25 minute mark and inconsistently take the game seriously for the majority of the running time. They don't even enter the game world until 70 minute mark, goddamnit!

So what are the filmmakers wasting their time dealing with? Pointless family drama that is not executed properly at all. They act like this hunt for the father and having to kill him is somehow dramatic and cathartic. I'm thinking, we don't know jackshit about this dude except that he sure loved VHS. Yeaaaah, just having a character say it was "tough" growing up ain't fucking cuttin' it in my book...not when your dealing with this kind of badass premise. There are also all manner of shenanigans that go nowhere like that dweeby store owner trying to act creepy, why the father had a picture of the chick from the game, and what was the big deal with the video store? There are so many holes in the plot that it's as if every third page of the script were ripped out.

But what really irked me was the complete debacle of paying tribute to the '80s that the filmmakers clearly wanted to depict. Sure, the characters making references to fake movies would have been nicer with real movies--I can overlook that--but where is the cheese factor? Where is the fun or the over the top? Where is the heart? "Beyond the Gates" has little soul. The acting wasn't doing any favors either.

You know what, I can't even declare this a failure...I want this shit redone. FIX THIS! Remake this movie again with a bigger budget and someone who can properly capture the tone and style of the '80s. Get the crew behind "The Void" or "Stranger Things" or just anyone who understands how to do this era justice. Here, I'll help. Skip all the "dramatic" bullshit at the beginning--start the movie off with the brothers (cool with each other and with fun, playful banter) going through the father's video store and discovering the game as your opening scene. Get rid of the girlfriend character and everyone else; they're useless and stupid. Make the brothers go into a surreal world where the video woman appears ethereal and serves as their guide/antagonist. Keep the thing with 4 keys except make each key a neon-colored VHS tape and contained inside an '80s-centric area: maybe a slasher area paying tribute to masked killers, a sci-fi world that is like "Aliens" meets "Tron," a lighthearted, treasure hunt area similarly to "The Goonies" meets "The A-Team," and, last, an action world fighting terrorists and/or ninjas. Or crank this shit up to eleven and mix and match ideas; think "Jem" fighting Jason or Indiana Jones meets DnD. The potential is endless! As the brothers fight their way through the worlds, they claim the keys, get some girls, free the dad, and, hell, save the damn world! Why not, right?

I'm giving "Beyond the Gates" a mediocre rating simply due to my profound love for the basic premise. However, that's about all she wrote for this movie. There are a few decent aspects here and there, but, fundamentally, the filmmakers dropped the ball. This movie is nothing at all as one might imagine or hope it to be. The production is pure amateur hour through and through. Typically, I can forgive this shortcoming but not when the story dicks around with unnecessary scenes, pointless bullshit, and plain meandering with the material. I don't recommend this film since it is nothing more than a disappointment waiting to happen. What a shame.

Notable Moment: When the brothers first walk into the father's video store and are surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of VHS tapes. What a beautiful sight.

Final Rating: 5/10

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