For many, those magical trips to the local video shop and sifting through the myriad of weird and wonderful titles now seems like a distant memory. Perusing the horror section filled with garish video box art has given way to the click of a button. Plenty of films trade off the nostalgia of that era – The Guest, Turbo Kid, Mandy, Hobo with a Shotgun and Drive – but 2016’s Beyond the Gates is the most vivid representation of the video shop era yet.
A brief flashback scene shows a family in the midst of celebrating the opening of a specialist tape rental-cum-cinematic curio store, obviously the fruit of their father’s labour. We than move forward a couple of decades later and the two young brothers have now grown up and apart. They awkwardly reunite to begin the long and arduous task of dismantling their missing dad’s now defunct business. The eldest Gordon (Graham Skipper) has settled down with girlfriend (Brea Grant) while wayward younger sibling, John (Chase Williamson) is a couch-hopping semi-vagrant. But the two are soon forced to put aside their differences when they accidently uncover the titular VHS board game, which is somehow linked to their father’s mysterious disappearance. Guided by an omnipresent female temptress within the accompanying video (played with camp relish by genre favourite Barbara Crampton) the trio must venture through the game’s deadly stages to uncover the truth.
Beyond the Gates occasionally struggles to deliver on this tasty premise, but director Jackson Stewart clearly has a love for the material and his really nails that fun notion of a video rental box having the ability to unleash something supernatural and fantastical. And for a film focusing largely on B-movie thrills and fun, it still succeeds in injecting meaningful subtext among the more frivolous and goofy content. Beyond the Gates pays homage to the work of low-budget horror/fantasy merchant Charles Band and his company Full Moon Features and the idea of confronting your demons via a seemingly innocuous video is an enticing prospect and can’t help but kindle those rental memories of yesteryear.
Watch Beyond The Gates on CHILI