The Gate (1987 film)

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The Gate
The gate film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTibor Takács
Written byMichael Nankin
Produced byJohn Kemeny
CinematographyThomas Vámos
Edited byRit Wallis
Music by
Distributed by
  • New Century Entertainment[1]
  • Vista Organization[1]
Release date
  • May 15, 1987 (1987-05-15)
Running time
85 minutes
BudgetUS$6 million[2]
Box officeUS$13.5 million[3]

The Gate is a 1987 supernatural horror film directed by Tibor Takács and starring Stephen Dorff in his film debut. The film follows two young boys who accidentally release a horde of demons from their backyard through a large hole in the ground.

An international co-production between Canada and the United States, the film was released by the New Century Vista Film Company and grossed around twice its budget. Since its release, it has obtained a cult following and was followed by a sequel in 1990 titled The Gate II: Trespassers.

A 3D-remake directed by Alex Winter was in production; it was initially set for a release in 2011, but no release occurred at that time.[4]


Twelve-year-old Glen has a nightmare of finding his home abandoned, then going into his tree-house only for it to be struck by lightning and collapse. When he wakes, he finds that in his backyard, workers have cut down the same tree from his nightmare and unearthed a large geode which is later found by Glen and his older friend Terry. Glen catches a splinter and leaves a small amount of blood behind.

Glen's parents leave town for three days, placing his 15-year-old sister Alexandra ("Al") in charge. While Al throws a party, Terry and Glen break open the geode after having discovered that it has left strange writing on a notepad, and read the incantations aloud. They go downstairs just as the party-goers are playing a levitation game. Everyone is shocked when they levitate Glen.

That night, Glen sees his bedroom wall stretching, and Terry embraces an apparition of his dead mother that turns out to be Glen's dog Angus, who dies as a result. The next day, Terry brings a heavy metal album to Glen's house with lyrics based on "The Dark Book". He believes that the hole in Glen's backyard is a gateway to a domain of evil gods, and speculates that their actions opened it. He concludes that the only missing element would be to deposit a sacrifice into the hole. Unknown to them, a friend of Al's dumps Angus's body into the hole, completing the summoning. After having read a section from "The Dark Book" that is supposed to close the gateway, the boys find the hole closed and assume that their efforts succeeded.

That night, a swarm of moths shatter Glen's bedroom window, and Angus' corpse is found in Terry's bed. Demonic arms try pulling Al under her bed; Terry and Glen barely save her. They try fleeing the house, but are greeted outside by Glen and Al's parents, actually disguised demons. After returning to the house, Al volunteers to inspect the yard, but the others see it swarming with small demons and call her back. Terry leads everyone to the basement to retrieve "The Dark Book", but it bursts into flames. They then attempt to stop the creatures by reading the Bible. Terry reads from Psalm 59 and the hole begins to close, but he slips and falls into the hole. Terry is attacked by the small demons before Al and Glen pull him out. Terry reads from Genesis, then throws the Bible into the hole, causing an explosion that appears to seal the hole.

That night, a wall breaks open and a construction worker's corpse falls through (Terry had previously lied to Glen that when his house was built, one of the workers died and the other workers had sealed him inside a wall). The worker pulls Terry into the wall, which seals behind him. Upstairs, Al notices a hazy image of the construction worker in her mirror before Glen bursts into her bedroom. Al throws a stereo at the construction worker and he disintegrates into dozens of little demons. Al holds the bedroom door shut while Glen races downstairs to find their father's gun. A demonic version of Terry appears, biting his hand before Al stabs Terry in the eye. Al and Glen hide in a closet, but the construction worker breaks through an interior wall and drags Al away.

Glen realizes that Terry and Al represent the two human sacrifices that would fully open the gate. He also realizes that the rocket that he had given to Al for her birthday, a symbol of love, light and purity, may stop the rise of the Old Gods. He makes his way upstairs as the floor collapses, revealing a chasm beneath the house. Glen attempts to launch the rocket, but his matches keep blowing out. The wind sucks Glen onto the foyer, where a giant serpentine demon emerges. The demon pats Glen on the head and touches his hand before returning to the hole. Glen discovers that the demon's touch has placed an eye in the palm of his hand. He stabs the eye, then struggles to descend the staircase, at which point the demon re-emerges. Glen uses a battery-powered launcher to fire his rocket into the demon, causing it to explode.

Angus emerges from the front closet, seemingly restored to life. He is followed by Terry and Al, also unhurt. Later, the kids worry about how to explain the wreckage of the house to their parents.



The first draft of the script was written by Michael Nankin when he was unemployed and recently divorced, basing it on "the nastiest thoughts from [his] childhood".[5][6] Glen and Al were depicted as being more mischievous than shown in the final film, and the demons spread to the rest of the town, where they would drag neighbors out into the streets to kill them. The gigantic demon was originally envisioned as being made of bloody entrails.[5]

The house was a real home in Toronto, but an exterior exit had to be constructed for the production, featuring bricks, stairs, and a bug zapper. Beyond the backyard was a new housing development, so the crew erected a fence around the yard to block the construction vehicles and workers from view.[5]

The effects used to create the demons included stop-motion animation as well as forced perspective, wherein actors wearing rubber suits were made to look minuscule by their position relative to the camera and to the human characters. Randall William Cook, the film's special effects supervisor, used his hand and eye to create the scene where an eyeball appears in Glen's palm.[5]


The Gate opened in the US on May 15, 1987. It ranked second in its opening weekend and grossed $4.3 million. It grossed a total of $13.5 million by the end of its run.[3] Lionsgate released a special edition DVD on October 6, 2009, with audio commentary from the director and interviews.[7] They later released a Blu-ray version via their label Vestron Video on February 28, 2017. It includes commentary from the filmmakers and several featurettes.[8]

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 60% based on 10 reviews and a rating average of 5.80/10.[9] Michael Wilmington of the Los Angeles Times, in comparing it to the works of Steven Spielberg and Stephen King, wrote, "whatever minor triumphs it dredges up, is too hopelessly copycat".[10] In rating it 3/5 stars, TV Guide called it a "surprisingly effective" and refreshingly uncynical horror film that may be too wimpy for some horror fans.[2] Commenting on the film's dreamlike plot, Time Out said it could have been a cult film had the filmmakers abandoned their attempts to tie together the bizarre elements.[11]

In a retrospective review, Odie Henderson of Slant Magazine wrote, "If you can get in touch with your inner 12-year-old, The Gate is a pleasant diversion." Henderson identifies family values as a core theme, though it is subtle enough not to be preachy.[12] Reviewing the DVD for Dread Central, Paul Nicholasi rated it 4.5/5 stars and called it "a MUST HAVE movie for all horror fans" that they can show their kids to introduce them to horror films.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e "The Gate". American Film Institute. Retrieved 2018-05-08.
  2. ^ a b "The Gate". TV Guide. Retrieved 2018-05-07.
  3. ^ a b Box Office Information for The Gate. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
  4. ^ "Remaking The Gate – Interview Alex Winter". screen/read. Archived from the original on 9 September 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d Manny MassGrave Serrano (December 7, 2016). "10 Things About "The Gate" You Probably Didn't Know". MoviePilot. Archived from the original on January 11, 2018. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  6. ^ Mike Sprague (May 15, 2017). "Happy 30th Birthday, The Gate!". Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  7. ^ Barton, Steve (2009-07-16). "The Gate: Monstrous Special Edition Coming!". Dread Central. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  8. ^ Barton, Steve (2016-12-19). "Vestron Video Opens The Gate on Blu-ray!". Dread Central. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  9. ^ "The Gate (1987) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 12, 2019.
  10. ^ Wilmington, Michael (1987-05-19). "Movie Review : Bevy Of Beasties Run Wild In 'Gate'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  11. ^ "The Gate". Time Out. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  12. ^ Henderson, Odie (2012-08-25). "Summer of '87: The Gate: Dorff's Demon-strations". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  13. ^ Nicholasi, Paul (2009-10-12). "Gate, The (DVD)". Dread Central. Retrieved 2017-04-19.

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