Greetings from the Edge!
Following up on last week’s cinematic childhood trauma tour de force The Gate, we’ll be taking a critical gander at its younger sibling, Gate 2: The Trespassers. I’m not sure why The Gate lost its “The” and simply became “Gate,” but maybe they only had the budget for one” the” in the title and they decided to plop it in front of “trespassers” instead. Of course, “The Gate 2: Trespassers” would seem to make more sense, but I’m not in the professional tween abuse business, so what do I know!
Gate 2 moves away from the little creatures on the loose genre and into something more akin to The Monkey’s Paw or a “wishes have terrible, unforeseen consequences” type of story. With a budget roughly three times the amount of The Gate, let’s see why Gate 2 made about six times less than the original.
Starring Louis Tripp, our only returning member of the original cast, as Terry. Our troubled tween has grown into a disaffected ( and demon summoning ) teen and is joined by Pamela Adlon as Liz, our only female character pulling double duty as love interest and plot device ( I’d like to think that her work on Gate 2 led to her her voice acting the character of Bobby Hill on King of the Hill ), James Villemaire as John, a bully so two dimensional and borderline psychotic that I’d swear he was written by Stephen King when he was trying to take ALL the drugs, and Simon Reynolds as Moe, the semi-sympathetic sidekick of John who is also suffering from a heart condition. Wow Moe, just doubled down on the old horror movie doomed to die bingo, didn’t he!
Gate 2 kicks off with a shot of a suburban street at night slowly panning over to the fenced off ruins of the house from the original film, with a voice-over from Terry stating his intent to summon the forces of the Elder Gods again, but this time, “Do it right.” You’d think that demonic possession, seeing a terrifying vision of his dead mother, and having a Barbie leg shoved through his eye socket would dissuade him, but I guess some kids are just incorrigible!
Soon we see Terry enter the abandoned house, moving a “No Trespassers” ( title drop! ) sign to reveal that he has set up a high-tech summoning circle with laser lights, a sound system, and computer controls. In fact, it feels more like Terry is setting up a rave for the forces of darkness than attempting to bend the Elder Gods to his will. Half-way through his summoning, a group of kids, including love interest Liz, dim witted bully John, and bully minion and kid with tragic facial hair Moe, break into the house and get involved.
These new “trespassers” are recruited into the ritual and, when things inevitably go awry, the forces they have summoned begin to insinuate themselves into the teens’ lives. Will Terry have the force of will to resist the lure of power, or will his tampering with the Elder Gods doom not only himself and his friends but the whole world to an eternity of darkness and dominion?
Wow, considering Gate 2 had a massive increase in budget, not a lot of that ended up on the screen. In fact, it feels like most of the effects in Gate 2 are recycled from The Gate, and that’s kinda disappointing.
We do see the return of the forced perspective effects from The Gate on a smaller scale ( scale, perspective get it? …I’ll just leave now ), but the lack of ambition compared to the first film is very obvious.
During the climax of the film, there are a couple of pretty nice makeup effects, especially the transformative effects done on Terry and Moe. The stop-motion effects, including some shots of the minion ( yep, after the swarms of minions we got in The Gate, we’ve been downgraded to a single lonely minion for the sequel ) and the final transformation of John are okay but, sadly, nothing to write home about.
Gate 2: The Trespassers attempts to shift the basic genre of the series to be more of a teen drama rather than the more serious tone of the first film. Gate 2 just seems to be missing any real enthusiasm for its own story. I couldn’t get away from the leaden plodding feel of the film. I imagine that’s why it lingered on the shelf for a couple of years before finally getting a lackluster and little publicized release.
With the plot device of wishes going wrong, Gate 2 feels more like a cross between Ferris Bueller’s Day Off meets The Twilight Zone than the battle between the forces of light and darkness played out in the first film.
Although having said that, I’d probably have enjoyed “Ferris Bueller in The Twilight Zone” more than I did Gate 2.
Considering the budget increase and the relatively cheap feel of the production compared to The Gate, it left me wondering where all the money went in Gate 2. It certainly wasn’t sets, named actors, special effects, or extensive location shooting, so seeing as it was a product of the ’80s, I’m just going to go ahead and assume it was all spent on hookers and blow.
After effusing praise for the first movie in the series, it makes me all the sadder to say that Gate 2: The Trespassers is ultimately a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t awful, and believe me I’ve seen much, much worse teen horror films. Gate 2 has a few moments that shine through, but in the end it just feels formulaic. The actors are all trying their damndest and I can’t blame them, but they are seriously hindered by a lack of direction and writing.
I will say that Gate 2 is a great movie to watch with your friends and some adult beverages to lubricate the experience. As far as that goes, it ranks right up there with Maximum Overdrive and Swamp Thing as brilliantly mockable.
If you’re looking for a serious demon summoning horror, I’d go with Hellraiser ( but only the first two films! ) or for something with both horror and comedy, I’d recommend one of my all time favorites, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. In fact, if you haven’t seen that seminal work of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, why are you reading this?! Go gather your friends and make a night of it, at the very least you’ll finally understand half the memes and pop culture references that have been flying over your head.
Nerdy Speculation Corner: Warning, may contain both spoilers and dangerous amounts of geekery!
Okay, I just have to say that my favorite moment in the whole of Gate 2 has to be Terry armoring up in hockey gear to take on the errant minion that has broken loose and is scuttling around his basement. Especially when he manages to slap shot the minion and catch it under a waste paper basket and then beat the unholy hell out of the can with his hockey stick. Truly one of the finest moments in all Canuxploitation! If they had managed to work in maple syrup, Tim Hortons, and poutine, it might have been close to a lethal level dosage of Canadiana.
I do like that Glen and Alexandra’s house doesn’t seem to have magically repaired itself after the end of the Elder Gods incident in The Gate. It always seems that in these tween horrors, everything gets restored by the end of the film with no consequences. Wow, that must have been an awkward conversation: “Sorry Mom and Dad, but our tampering with forces beyond mortal ken has gutted our house and left the remains of a demonic portal in the living room.” On the bright side, I don’t think the insurance company can claim “Act of God.”
At the end of the film, all those who died because of ill-advised tampering with forces of the outer abyss crawl out of Terry’s coffin during his funeral. Meaning we end up with a horror film with exactly zero body count. Terry’s father survives his crash, the teens all somehow return from their deaths in the outer realm, and just in case you are a member of PETA, in an after credits sequence, even Terry’s sacrificed hamster gets a reprieve.
Oh, and I’d feel remiss if I didn’t mention the male equivalent to the ’80s hair explosion from the first movie: behold the glory of teen caterpillar lip. I’m sure that he and ’80s hair girl will go on to have many lovely children… all sporting his and her mullets.
Come back next week for more cinematic silliness, movie malice, and picture show puerility here on the Edge!