“DAMN, THIS IS SOME SCURRY SHIT!” These immortal words were uttered by Regina Hall in the first Scary Movie film and after watching Beyond the Gates I thought immediately back upon these words. Beyond the Gates is indeed one scurry movie, managing to be a demented version of Jumanji, an homage to 80s movies, and a genuinely interesting and creepy film.
Gordon (Graham Skipper) and John (Chase Williamson) Hardesty are two brothers who have to come together to pack up their father’s old video store after he goes missing. During this, they stumble across a strange video and like all characters in horror films, they decide to watch it. Rather than kill them right away like in The Ring, Beyond the Gates is a game of increasing acts and tense interactions with Evelyn (Barbara Crampton) who guides them along their scary path.
I think what made this film so affecting for me was that director Jackson Stewart and his co-writer Stephen Scarlata imbued the entire thing with an intense feeling of unease from the first frame onwards. There’s not a moment in this movie where the creepiness isn’t readily apparent, but it was done so tastefully, even the film’s bigger asks of the audience don’t really struggle to land. There were several moments that I legitimately shouted and it’s one of those films that seem destined for great Midnight screenings and a long life for people who love horror films. Also impressive about this film is how it employs the tropes and tactics of 80s films and other horror works, and repurposes them effectively without seeming like a rip off. That’s a tough line to walk but they make the film feel wholly original even as it owes much of its success to other films.
The unsung hero of this film is Barbara Crampton, who manages to chill you with simple looks as the woman in the video that corresponds to the game. Just having her subtle movements on the screen was enough to scare me, only compounding the fear you feel for the characters as they continue to do desperate acts to end the game.