I remember playing VHS board games as a kid of the 80’s. I had some adventure based ones and even a racing one. I’d spend weekends playing them while eating heaping bowls of Count Chocula cereal. The premise for the games were simple enough, you and some friends would gather around the TV, pop in a VHS tape and let the tape guide your adventure. Usually, they would come with a board game or some sort of “Plug in” peripheral. It was pretty awesome. Beyond The Gates takes the VHS board game to an all-new terrifyingly fun level and my nostalgia thanks it.
When Gordon (Graham Skipper) and John (Chase Williams), two brothers (who don’t get along too well) reunite to sort out their fathers old video store inventory, they discover a VHS board game called Beyond The Gates. Remembering that type of game fondly, they decide to pop the tape in. An mesmerizing and haunting woman, named Evelyn, (Barbara Crampton) introduces herself to the guys and begins the game. Little do Gordon and John know that they just started a game that may lead them to their father who strangely disappeared or to certain death. Once the game begins, these guys are forced to play through until the bloody end.
Every move made in game has consequences in the real-world and forces the brothers to make some pretty brutal decisions the further they advance.
This film has it all, nostalgia fans! Video stores, VCRs, VHS tapes, and an fantasic premise at its core. The film as a whole, feels like a throwback to the 80’s and all the things that we genre fans loved about it.
The cast is awesome as well. Skipper (Almost Human, Minds Eye) plays the well-rounded brother. He brings a foundation to the film and is basically the audience manifested on the screen. Williams, (John Dies At The End) plays the more frenetic brother; more of the wild card. The chemistry between Skipper and Williams works well. Their characters feel organic when bouncing dialogue of each other, leading to the center-piece, estranged family working to pull us in on a believable relationship. The cast also features genre-favorites Crampton (Re-Animator, We Are Still Here) and Matt Mercer (Contracted 1&2). To be honest, this cast alone would have pulled me in to watching.
The film plays out like a mashup of ‘The Ring’ meeting ‘Jumanji,’ with an attached 80’s love letter. For a genre film that features some pretty awesome gore effects, like disembowelment, and a gruesome head explosion, the film has heart. Director, Jackson Stewart does a great job of balancing all the moving parts of a horror, comedy by adding in well-placed family drama into the formula.
I’m a fan, I feel like Beyond The Gates is something I would have randomly discovered on a video store shelf. It has cult staying power, and you can feel that the people that were making the film were doing so out of love for all the things we 80’s lovers were obsessed with.