Beyond the Gates

Beyond the Gates, from director and co-writer Jackson Stewart, tells the story of two brothers–one an uptight loser, the other an immature loser–reuniting following the disappearance of their father. But when they start packing up their father’s video rental store, they come across a mysterious video cassette that may have something to do with their father’s disappearance.

This feels like this was made from a “My First Horror Movie” kit. Poorly, I may add.

The parts of this movie that feel and look incredibly competent are also clearly all the distinctly generic, stale, but wholly useful bits and pieces that came in the kit. And the final results are someone’s inexperienced and unenthusiastic attempt at slapping it all together.

For example:

The acting (and actors) teeters back and forth between pitch perfect and “I know a guy who will do it for free.” Characters are slowly and clumsily introduced in clunky, exposition-heavy scenes. The dialog is as unnatural as it comes. The scenes and sequences are mechanical, clockwork. They’re just there to fulfill some explicit, often singular purpose for the writers and director. This character has to show up now. This bit of exposition has to be said to hint at or explain this or that. And there’s no real semblance of structure. The closest thing to a “page ten moment” happens about 25 minutes into this 80 minute movie. There’s no discernible act breaks–scenes are just strung together in something resembling a straightforward progression of events, but there’s no desire to actually build up to anything. There’s nothing going on in the opening teaser. There’s a lot of talking heads saying nothing of importance and zero action or plot progression in the first twenty minutes. And there’s nothing even close to horror or scares until about 45 minutes in.

Beyond the Gates is clearly a movie that started off as a very basic idea with a bunch of really cool ideas thrown in. And then it just sorta stayed that way, with a lot of packing peanuts added to fill in all that empty space. Thus, what should be a fun, campy love-letter to dusty family video stores, horror, and VHS and VCRs from those who grew up on such things instead feels like someone’s homework assignment. And movies should never feel like work.

Then again, it’s felt like that way to me for the better part of a whole month. So, what the hell do I know?

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