Review: BEYOND THE GATES is Like JUMANJI Meets THE RING (L.A. Film Fest 2016)
If you dumped Jumanji, The Ring, and a couple gallons of fake blood into a blender and hit the "combine into a 1980s horror homage" button, you'd get Beyond The Gates. A mishmash of genre influences, the film follows two brothers who return to their missing father's house, only to discover a dangerous, mystical board game they must play in order to save his soul. That's about all of the plot description you're going to get because I don't want to spoil any of the film's big moments, but it's clear the movie has a lot on its mind.
That being said, the pacing can be excruciatingly slow, and while the trio of lead actors — Graham Skipper (Almost Human), Chase Williamson (John Dies at The End), and Brea Grant (Heroes) — mostly acquit themselves well, I was often pulled out of the movie when other actors showed up because of how much noticeably worse they were at embodying their characters. (To be fair, the script didn't do them many favors; the writing left a lot to be desired.) The '80s-inspired synth theme that opens the film fit perfectly with the tone co-writer/director Jackson Stewart was going for, but that song isn't utilized nearly enough, and the rest of the score is lackluster and forgettable.
This movie is in a strange position: it never gets truly terrifying enough to please diehard horror fans, and it has some intense moments of blood and gore, but those are so rare that even gorehounds may end up coming away a little disappointed. Dressed up in horror movie tropes, Beyond The Gates is a film about struggles with alcoholism, abandonment, legacy, and grief, but it's not executed as well as, say, something like last year's The Final Girls, which operates in a similar wheelhouse. This has the same genuine affection for its genre, and though it has it's moments, it's ultimately a slight piece of entertainment that didn't lean far enough toward either horror or comedy to be a standout example of either.