Beyond the Gates Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Jackson Stewart
Written by Stephen Scarlata and Jackson Stewart
2016, 82 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on May 2nd, 2017
Graham Skipper as Gordon
Chase Williamson as John
Brea Grant as Margot
Matt Mercer as Derek
Justin Welborn as Hank
Jesse Merlin as Elric
Barbara Crampton as Evelyn
When their father goes missing and is presumed dead, brothers Gordon and John are tasked with cleaning out the family business, a specialty video store. In dad’s office the boys find an interactive VHS board game called “Beyond the Gates” that appears to be the last thing he was watching before his disappearance. They take their discovery back to the house and decide to play it along with Gordon’s girlfriend Margot, but to their surprise the video appears tailor-made. They call in a friend to witness the weirdness, but are stunned to learn only the three of them can see the video program. Margot is freaked out and wants nothing to do with the game, but Gordon and John are compelled to continue playing over the next few days. They quickly learn there are very real consequences to their gameplay actions and must decide what they are willing to risk to finish this deadly game.
I’ve long been a sucker for game-based movies, including Witchboard, Brainscan, Clue and Jumanji to name just a few. There is something fun about interactive gaming that is infectious when translated to film if done well. Director Jackson Stewart makes his feature debut with Beyond the Gates, a genre throwback to the 1980s co-written with Steve Scarlata (Final Girl). The premise is engaging and the cast competent, but the real stars of the picture are cinematographer Brian Sowell (Unidentified) and composer Wojciech Golczewski (We Are Still Here), both of whom nail the tone of the picture from the very first frames. Stewart is not as accomplished but wisely surrounds himself with talented people. There are quite a few missteps, unfortunately resulting in some early pacing problems and a less than satisfying conclusion, but the nostalgic vibe remains strong.
Graham Skipper (Carnage Park) stars as Gordon, the buttoned-up conservative treading unfamiliar territory while trying to keep his temper in check. Chase Williamson (The Guest) is far more casual as John, who is eager to see what awaits at the game’s finale. Brea Grant (The Devil’s Dolls) provides both a grounded response to the proceedings as well as a bit of comic relief as Margot. The central cast keeps things on track and manages to remain unscathed despite a lack of proper direction. Making the most of a limited role is actress/ producer Barbara Crampton (From Beyond) who appears as the unnamed guide to the video based board game. Her haunting stare and sexy demeanor keep viewers enchanted by every minute of her screen time.
Supporting players Justin Welborn (The Crazies), Matt Mercer (Contracted: Phase 2) and Jesse Merlin as local residents do not always fare as well, but not from a lack of trying. Special make-up effects artists Josh and Sierra Russell (Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear) are given a few opportunities to shine and deliver a much needed boost to the material with some decent wet work. If you enjoy films like Fulci’s The Beyond, you will appreciate the style though even the most ardent fan must admit they feel played as this game is over before it really got to be fully explored.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Beyond the Gates looks as great as an HD film shot last year should and offers a dynamic range of vivid colors and deeply saturated blacks. Contrast levels are solid and flesh tones appear natural throughout.
Audio options include both a DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 tracks that are both entertaining with the expanded 5.1 mix being a bit more aggressive. The film’s soundtrack benefits from the full use of speakers and there are a few isolated sound effects that creep around the rear channels as well.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Three commentary tracks kick things off; one with the crew, another with the cast and a third featuring podcasting fans (Junk Food Diner) with each session providing a moderately entertaining series of anecdotes about the making of the film. There is nothing stellar to recommend these tracks, but it is nice to hear the filmmakers’ enthusiasm for their work.
Most surprising is a Q&A (17 minutes) from the premiere moderated by none other than legendary director Stuart Gordon (Dolls). I do not quite understand his enthusiasm for this project, but kudos to them for scoring such a respectable cheerleader.
Director Jackson Stewart’s short film Sex Boss (6 minutes) offers a look at the comedic side of job application.
A collection of deleted scenes (3 minutes) offer a look at some of the material wisely cut for pacing.
A behind the scenes featurette (11 minutes) offers the standard EPK talking head interviews with members of the cast and crew saying nice things about the production.
The original trailer is included for marketing purposes.
The most creative special feature is a mock commercial for the board game, complete with VHS quality video and scenes that appear more engaging than the feature itself.
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