21 years ago, my friend Rob and I had a discussion about how advertisers manipulate the truth. It was a discussion inspired by this movie (which I had avoided seeing until just yesterday, at least partly due to this conversation.)
It was 1987, or whenever the trailers for The Gate were airing on TV and ads were appearing in the newspapers. (Back then, we kids used to have to read the newspaper or watch lots of TV to find out about movies; there was no IMDB.)
Rob remarked "Look at the ad for this movie The Gate."
It must have been the second round of ads for the movie - the ones with quotes from favourable reviews. One of the quotes read "...nifty special effects..."
He said, "I read the review where that quote came from. But what they actually said was 'There are some nifty special effects, but they're all in the trailer.'"
At which point we decided the movie must be crap and never bothered to go see it.
Now that I've finally seen the movie, I have to say that the review was pretty unfair. There are indeed nifty effects in the film, but there's no way they would have all fit into a trailer. In fact, the final third of the film is a veritable 80s effects bonanza. Additionally, the word "nifty" perhaps undersells it a bit. The effects throughout are actually quite clever, seemingly employing just about every pre-CGI trick the filmmakers could think of. The stop-motion creatures are especially unnerving, with surprisingly fluid animation.
As a movie - a horror movie - I have mixed thoughts. As a goofy old Canadian B-horror, it's well above average, and enjoyable to watch for the usual list of reasons one enjoys B-movies. As a horror, I think it's a bit more successful as a kids horror than one for adults.
There's a moment when the protagonists, all kids, have the option to either call 911, call their parents, or attempt to solve the problem of having a gateway to a hell dimension in their back yard all by themselves. They opt for the latter.
This, though perhaps honourable as an inspiration for teenagers to take responsibility and solve problems themselves, isn't the most realistic choice, per se, making you realize that maybe you're watching a movie made for 14 year olds in 1987. One thing hasn't changed since then however: suburban Toronto houses are still as bland as they ever were.
Starring an impossibly young and unrecognizable Stephan Dorff as a likeable nerd, I'd recommend this one primarily for the special effects.