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Beyond the Gates - Blu-ray Review

4 beersIt’s time to go back; back to the 1980’s.  It was a time when the videocassette ruled everything.  The sticker advising us to “Be Kind, Rewind” was stuck to every case.  Sometimes, we did and other times, well, we were kind of in a hurry to get the damn thing back to the video store on time.  Thankfully, the creators of Beyond the Gates have been kind enough to do exactly that: rewind.  It is a retrograde slice of 1980s horror that rarely gets made anymore.

And it’s totally awesome. 

If actress Barbra Crampton (featured in films like Body Double, Re-Animator, Chopping Mall, From Beyond, Castle Freak, and You're Next) EVER hosts ANY board game I am playing – whether it have a DVD, Blu-ray, or (hell) a VHS component, I am out.  I don’t care how good she looks.  There’s no way in hell, after watching her egg players on in Beyond the Gates, that I want to have anything to do with her.  Count me out.

Directed by Jackson Stewart and co-written by Stephen Scarlata, Beyond the Gates is a retro-minded horror flick about a VCR board game that holds the secret to the mysterious fate of two estranged brothers’ father.  Playing it, though, could cost you your life and Gordon (Graham Skipper from The Mind’s Eye), John (Chase Williamson from The Guest), and Margot (Brea Grant) are about to find out just how difficult it is to stop the roll of the dice.

Chutes and Ladders this is not.  People die in the most unexpected of ways throughout the game time.  One gets his intestines violently ripped out when John digs into a voodoo doll looking for a key.  Another gets his head blown to bits when a pin is removed from board piece.  In this way, Beyond the Gates earns its gross-out award and then some.  The practical effects are intense and nasty; dripping from wounds with a ceremonious splat.

While the setup to the discovery of the board game (including a backstory concerning the father’s opening of a VHS store in his hometown which is actually the North Hollywood landmark of Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee on Vineland) seems a little prolonged, this 83-minute b-minded flick does quick work in creeping us out as soon as the game is removed from the store and brought home.  Perhaps we could have jumped into the scares a bit sooner, though.

You see, the boys think their father has gone missing for good.  He’s dead they assume and now have the task of sorting through the store and removing his things.  It’s a tense situation for two brothers who don’t see eye to eye.  Here is where the acting shines the most.  Their family drama is played with a nice subtlety that suggests familiarity and real emotion.

That’s when they discover the secret hidden in his locked office.  The board game called “Beyond the Gates” awaits them.  And once the VHS tape is played, the hostess awaits there next turn…no matter how long it takes.  She remains – even if they stop the playback and turn off the TV – waiting for them to continue their turn.  It’s creepy and, as the black-and-white image flickers and fades, damn near seizure inducing.

With performances up front, Beyond the Gates wins over a skeptical audience.  Horror Hounds and Gore-Gore-Girls will, of course, lap it up for the spellbinding moments where the unexpected movements in the shadows take form and grab.  There are only a couple of jump scares.  I am thankful for that because the tone – which half comical and half serious – could easily tip more toward farce if there were any more than that.

Beyond the Gates owes a lot to cult classics like The Gate and The Fog, but it also dares to do its own thing with random items associated with the game popping up in the basement unexpectedly and solid scares delivered throughout the running time.  I think, over the years, this throwback tale of VHS cassettes will earn a strong cult following.     

The horror film makes its debut on blu-ray thanks to Scream Factory.  With all this information, I have but one question for you.  Do you dare go Beyond the Gates?


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Beyond the Gates - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Not rated.
84 mins
: Jackson Stewart
Stephen Scarlata, Jackson Stewart
Graham Skipper, Chase Williamson, Brea Grant
: Horror
Press play... And pray.
Memorable Movie Quote: "It's been seven months. If's he's out there. It's not our problem anymore."
Theatrical Distributor:
IFC Midnight
Official Site:
Release Date:
December 9, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 2, 2017
Synopsis: After their father's unexplained disappearance, two estranged brothers – responsible Gordon (Graham Skipper) and reckless John (Chase Williamson) – reunite to sift through the contents of his stubbornly anachronistic VHS rental store. Among the inventory, they find an old interactive VCR board game. Intrigued, the brothers pop in the tape... and soon discover that this video is no ordinary game, but a portal to a nightmarish alternate reality – one with deadly consequences for anyone who dares to press "play."


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Beyond the Gates - Blu-ray Review



Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory
Available on Blu-ray
- May 2, 2017
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
: English; Spanish
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Region A

Scream Factory presents Beyond the Gates on 1080p with solid results.  The film was shot digitally and it shows with impenetrable detail on faces and clothes.  Even the sparse backgrounds look crisp.  The transfer preserves the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is incredibly layered with dark shadows and thick lines, preserving all edges.  No shadow leaks into the other lines.  Considering the amount of darkness in the locations, this is much appreciated.  Daylight scenes are bursting with leafy greens and brown soil.  Skin tones are appropriately saturated.  The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English sound track is equally as expressive.



  •  Hold onto your butts.  There are FOUR commentaries included with this release.  One with Director/Co-Writer Jackson Stewart, Actors Barbara Crampton And Jesse Merlin, Director Of Photography Brian Sowell, And Co-Writer Stephen Scarlata.  Another with Director/Co-Writer Jackson Stewart And Actors Chase Williamson, Brea Grant, And Graham Skipper.  A third with Junk Food Dinner Podcast Hosts Kevin Moss, Parker Bowman, And Sean Byron.  And a fourth one with Director/Co-Writer Jackson Stewart And Production Assistant Dan Fisk.  Whew.

Special Features:

The Blu-ray/DVD combo also includes a nice assortment of supplemental items to keep fans of the movie happy. 

  • Behind-The-Scenes Featurette
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Premiere Q&A – Moderated By Famed Horror Director Stuart Gordon
  • Sex Boss Short Film
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Retro Beyond The Gates Commercial


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Beyond the Gates - Blu-ray Review