Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Director: Jackson Stewart
Studio: Destroy All Entertainment
Review Rating: 7 out of 10
A pair of brothers come together after a long estrangement to take care of their missing fathers effects, and come across an old board game that may very well hold the key to finding their father.
So, it’s not a bad premise to start off with. The very beginning of the movie shows a proud Dad (Henry LeBlanc) with his wife (Caryn Richman) and two younger sons, preparing to open what looks like a hole-in-the-wall comic-book-gaming-store. Then suddenly its some years later and the two older brothers have come back together after some time apart, to close down Dads store and pack everything away, since Dads been missing for some seven months now. The proposed timelines in the film, and the complete disappearance of Mom after that initial first scene, were kind of muddled, but whatever, we go on.
Gordon Hardesty (Graham Skipper) is the far more serious of the brothers, whereas his sibling John (Chase Williamson) is kind of flighty and humbly admits to not having a serious job or girlfriend when they reunite. John sports this drifter friend Hank (Justin Welborn), who seems like your average barfly asshole, and both brothers seem to recall not-so-fondly from their childhoods their acquaintance Derek (Matt Mercer), who’s now become a policeman in their old town. Gordon’s girlfriend Margot (Brea Grant) inevitably shows up at some point, because we need a female Protagonist in there somewhere too, and that mostly rounds out the roster of the movie. Which is fine, there doesn’t have to be a slew of actors in a given movie.
So Gordon and John discover this old VCR boardgame Beyond the Gates, and decide to play it for the hell of it, kind of a memorial to their father. And suddenly this ghoulish-looking woman, Evelyn, is on their TV giving commands on how to play the game and potentially free their father from, say it with me, beyond the gates.
Inevitably, the brothers need a series of keys to unlock the gates. And the finding of these keys involves a goodly amount of Voodoo-like bloodshed, but its in these scenes where the movie truly shines. Exploding heads and trailing guts as practical effects are hard to do well, but this movie managed it, I thought. But after keys are procured and more creepy instructions issued by Evelyn, the film kind of falters and seems to lose steam rather than gaining it. Did they run out of money, or ideas? I don’t know, but it was a pretty standard trope to have the girlfriend possessed, have the brothers go to hell (or wherever), fight a pair of demons and then roundaboutly save their father.
It would have been nice to have some more background on a great many things in Beyond the Gates – how Dad got involved in the boardgame in the first place, where the Curio shop fits into all of this, what the hells happened to Mom, etc. – but I guess there’s only so much time to fit in everything. The soundtrack is pretty good, and it’s always nice to see Barbara Crampton in yet another Horror role.
Look into what’s Beyond the Gates on Netflix!