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.