Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
September 1st, 2012

Beyond the Gates

Beyond the Gates
Directed by Jackson Stewart
Written by Stephen Scarlata, Jackson Stewart
Starring Graham Skipper, Chase Williamson, Brea Grant
84 mins

When you see "IFC" on a movie box, chances are you're about to get a good movie. These guys are famous for delivering top-notch content. Today, we're checking out one of their latest, "Beyond the Gates", a movie that brings back a slice of the past in a grand old fashion.

"Beyond the Gates" follows two brothers who have inherited one of the greatest anachronisms of our day: a video store. Their father went missing some time prior, and now the duo thinks they may have found something therein that might explain their father's absence: a VCR-based board game called, as the title notes, "Beyond the Gates." Now, the two brothers will play that game and discover it holds a lot more than some relic of a bygone era.

The idea alone is spectacular; who's done anything with a VCR board game in the movies yet? It's the equivalent of Five Nights at Freddy's for the field, and we all know how that turned out. The end result is one part Insidious and one part Jumanji, which is a stroke of genius on par with the best.

As we all well know, however, even the best idea can still be rendered weak by poor execution. Indie fare has a great advantage in that it's willing to put out new ideas. Where it often fails, however, is in its ability to execute these. "Beyond the Gates" doesn't do badly, but it's not without its flaws.

The fact that it takes 24 minutes to even see the game in a movie that only runs 84 minutes to begin with is a horrendous misuse of runtime. It's a bit sluggish in general; I keep waiting for something to happen, but it almost refuses to. It's the Sword of Damocles held over my head with tow chain that's been arc welded into the ceiling supports. That thing ain't going nowhere.

However, with the last third or so, the movie does crank up in earnest, giving us some surprising visual metaphors and an excellent environment of unease throughout.

The ending features a multi-player ghoul fistfight, a bizarre life lesson, and an unexpected side twist besides.

Special features include your choice of English or Spanish subtitles, your choice of audio options including commentary tracks, a behind the scenes featurette, a set of deleted scenes, a premiere Q&A session, a short film titled "Sex Boss," and an old-style commercial for "Beyond the Gates." Also, we'll have trailers for "Antibirth," "The Autopsy of Jane Doe," and "Tank 432."

All in all, "Beyond the Gates" represents a thorough "not bad." It took way too long to get started, and even when it did the payoff was less than emphatic. But it did deliver the scary, and that's good enough for a start. It's not on par with IFC's usual quality, but not bad. Most definitely not bad