FILM REVIEW: BEYOND THE GATES

By Nick Durham

Remember those board games from the 80s/90s that included a VHS tape with them? These were interactive board games, and they set themselves apart from the usual pack of Sorry and Scrabble thanks to the fact that these VHS tapes would mostly include a host that would range from explaining how the game was played to flat out taunting you. These games were usually of the fantasy variety and ended up doing a lot with a little in terms of overall depth and most of the time ended up being pretty damn enjoyable for what they were. Over the years, these kind of board games (which there weren’t too many of sadly) are looked back on with a healthy bit of nostalgia; more so than any of the typical board games that have been around forever or are still around today.

Beyond the Gates is a movie designed to feed on this nostalgia, pure and simple. That in itself isn’t such a bad thing, as it’s actually quite enjoyable for being what it is. The plot of the film revolves around a pair of estranged brothers named Gordon (Graham Skipper) and John (John Dies at the End‘s Chase Williamson). The brothers reunite in their home town after their father mysteriously disappears, and seek to sell the remnants of his video store as well. In the process however, we discover that a mysterious VHS board game (hosted by genre stalwart Barbara Crampton, who also served as a producer on the film) may be responsible for the father’s disappearance, and soon enough the brothers are drawn into the power of the tape as mysterious events start happening, and escalate into some downright creepy moments.

As fun and almost whimsical as Beyond the Gates ends up being, it’s the film’s overall lack of execution that is the most disappointing. Know that when I say lack of execution, this mostly refers to the fact that the film’s ideas end up being too big for its budget to contain. You can tell the filmmakers had a very big vision here for what they wanted to do, but budget limitations can be a bitch. This really isn’t that big a deal though believe it or not, and kind of adds to the charm of the film as a whole. The point of the VHS board games, and fantasy board games in general, is to use your imagination; and this film manages to reflect that. The acting is wonderful as well, and Chase Williamson is hilarious. The characters are all given some pretty good depth, and the drama between the brothers is well orchestrated. Barbara Crampton channels her inner-Elvira, and the film itself is well shot with some decent atmosphere.

All together, Beyond the Gates is a fun little film that will satisfy the kid in you, as well as please the horror fan that you are. It will be streaming on Netflix in the very near future, and I wholeheartedly recommend checking it out. If I can make any other recommendation, it’s that to leave sky high expectations at the door, and just plain old enjoy the nostalgia trip you’re about to embark on.

Rating: 4/5

BLU-RAY REVIEW: CHOPPING MALL

chopping-mall-blu-ray

By Nick Durham

I’ve always had kind of a soft spot for Chopping Mall. I say soft spot because in my heart I know the movie is a piece of shit, but it’s enjoyable shit. If it were an actual, legitimate piece of real shit (or feces if you will), it’d be a piece of shit that wouldn’t smell as bad as typical pieces of shit. Are you enjoying my shit analogy? I hope so. Also that’s the first time I’ve used the word analogy in a very long time now that I think of it, and you know what? You can’t spell analogy without anal.

 

Anyway, Chopping Mall has now been brought to Blu-ray thanks to Lions Gate and their new imprint boasting the logo of the long defunct Vestron Video. This is the first release in what appears to promise to be a series of old trash that was released under the Vestron label on VHS way back when. Blood Diner was released alongside Chopping Mall (and we’ll get to that one eventually) on Blu-ray, and there’s future releases on the horizon including both Waxwork films, along with Return of the Living Dead 3 and C.H.U.D. 2. Lions Gate has also said that these Blu-ray releases are going to receive limited print runs, which is how they justify to us how ridiculous the list price is on these releases. Is it worth laying the cash down? Well, let’s find out.

 

For those of you that may not know, Chopping Mall is a low budget dirge that kind of came from the house of Roger Corman. It focuses on malfunctioning mall security robots that proceed to slaughter a handful of toolbags (which includes the always lovely Barbara Crampton) that have decided to stay at the mall after hours to fuck around and fuck each other as well, because this is the 80s and getting laid in places you shouldn’t is all the rage and nothing bad will come from it. Eventually our heroes take the fight to the murderous robots, all of which is told in a brisk 76-minute run time.  I’ve always found this film enjoyably terrible, and it still is to this day. It’s fun and dumb and there’s gore and boobs; and there’s not much else you can really ask for with this kind of shit.

 

Lions Gate’s Blu-ray release of Chopping Mall sadly doesn’t have the best picture quality. Granted that previous DVD releases of the film were barely better than VHS quality mind you, so compared to that, this release looks amazing. The audio quality is great though, so at least there’s that. In terms of special features, there’s a commentary track from director Jim Wynorski, actress Kelli Maroney, and co-writer Steve Mitchell. There’s also another commentary track from historians/authors Nathaniel Thompson and Ryan Turek, and there’s an additional commentary from 2004 featuring Wynorski and Mitchell. There’s a retrospective featurette that has many of the film’s cast and crew which is pretty good, along with a vintage featurette on creating the robots and a lot of other features as well. This release is stacked with bonus materials, which is pretty nice considering the price tag of the Blu-ray, but sadly the packaging itself is shoddy (a slipcover and a super thin regular Blu-ray case). Arrow and Grindhouse Releasing films for the same price (and less) are much better designed. Then again, maybe I’m just being a snob…and I’m guilty of that but I apologize for nothing, so eat me.

 

If you’re a longtime fan of Chopping Mall, I’d say this release is worth picking up. That soft spot I have for this film was what made me decide to pick it up, and I don’t regret it, I just wish the packaging itself reflected the price tag of this Blu-ray release. I only hope the rest of Lions Gate’s Vestron-bannered Blu-ray releases come packed with this many features down the road.

 

Rating: 4/5