Tuesday, March 13, 2018

GATE II (1990) (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)

GATE II (1990)

Label: Scream Factory

Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 93 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Tibor Takacs
Cast: Louis Tripp, Pamela Segall, Simon Reynolds, James Villemaire, Neil Munro

Gate II (1990) picks up a five years after The Gate (1987), gone is Stephen Dorf's character Glen, the family apparently moved away after the weirdness of the first film. In his place we catch-up with Terrence (Louis Tripp) who still dabbles in demonology, even after all the trouble from the first film! He was a troubled adolescent before and has grown into an even more troubled teenager, still mourning the loss of his mom and now his father's an unemployed alcoholic. At the start of the film Terrence returns to the still-in-ruins house from the original, returning to the portal to once again conjure demons to do his bidding, not for nefarious personal gain, but to wish a better life for his father, which is sort of sweet. His motivations are pure, but when you summon demons in a movie things tend to go wrong as we learned in The Gate (1987) and countless other movies, and when his ceremony is interrupted by a pair of local bullies John (James Villemaire) and Moe (Simon Reynolds), along with John's cute girlfriend Liz (Pamela Adlon), it seems that the conjuring was a dud, until a lone Minion (the little demonic entities from the first film) appears, but John pulls out a pistol and shoots it dead on sight! 

Terrence takes the lifeless corpse of the mini-minion home where after a few days it re-animatess, after which he keeps it in a birdcage as a demonic pet, and it turns out that the ceremony might have worked takes a liking to him, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend, who in turn steals the Minion, but both he and Moe are attacked by the creature and they begin to tun into demons themselves, kidnapping Liz with the intentions of sacrificing her and unleashing demonic Hell upon the Earth.

This sequel certainly tries go in a slightly different direction than the first film at first, but eventually it all comes back to having to close the damned portal again. The special effects hold up pretty damn well, I love these old school visual effects, there's some fun matte paintings and slightly rope-y forced perspective miniatures used to achieve the kiddie-horror madness, it has a nice look to it with oodles of atmosphere, and though we only get one minion this time around they really get their moneys worth out of it, achieved through both both animated miniatures and a person in a rubber suit. The make-up effects used to transform John and Moe and decent, particularly a scene of John in bathroom at an upscale restaurant as waiter inquires if he's okay as he begins to painfully transform into a bad-skinned demon, fun stuff. 

The movie has a lot of heart, I found it easy to sympathize with Terrence as he tried to use demonology for good, only to have it turn to shit (literally in one scene), he's a good guy. The 80's teen romance with Liz is decent too, not too drippy with schmaltz, but real enough. The one character that annoyed me was lead bully John, he's a standard issue 80's bully, but I like how they have his sidekick Moe a defective heart to humanize him. I will say that for all I loved about it the hokey and overly saccharine ending is almost a deal-breaker, it's real bad, but not bad enough to derail the whole film. 

Audio/Video: Gate II (1990) arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory framed in 1.85:1 widescreen, sourced from a new 2K scan of the interpositive. The source is clean and free of dirt and debris, colors are nicely saturated and there's a fine layer of natural looking grain. The image has nice depth and clarity, and the fine details look very good. The HD is so nicely crisp as to accentuate some of the limitations of the special effects, but I sort of like that! The lone audio option is an English language DTS-HD MA Stereo track, it lacks depth and crispness, but is serviceable, optional English subtitles are provided. 

While not a Collector's Edition, Scream Factory still offer up some quality new Red Shirt Pictures produced extras, beginning with a 27-min making-of retsrospective, it's a group chat with Director Tibor Takacs, Screenwriter Michael Nankin And Special Visual Effects Creator Randall William. A warts and all conversation, speaking about the genesis of the first film, it's success and hatching the sequel. They go into how the effects were achieved, including working with Hungarian dancer Andrea Ladanyi who wore the minion suit in the film, I chuckled when Williams refers to her as having "danced for the commies since she was six". Also discussed is the studios insistence that this be an R-rated film against the director's intentions, and how it did at the cinema and with critics.

There's also a 15-min interview with Make-up Effects Artist Craig Reardon, who is always fun to listen to about his experiences on movies, speaking about the use of forced perspective, and creating the demonic make-up appliances for the characters of John and More, going into detail about John's gooey reptilian transformation. The supplements are fleshed-out with what looks to be a VHS-sourced trailer, an image gallery and a cool audio-only extra, a vintage cassette recording sent out to video store retailers back in the day, which is awesomely cheesy. The single-disc release comes housed is a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork, neither of which are very impressive. The disc itself featuring key art from the original home video release which is also featured on the sleeve.  

Special Features: 

- NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
- NEW Return To The Nightmare – A Look Back At Gate II – Featuring Interviews With Director Tibor Takacs, Screenwriter Michael Nankin And Special Visual Effects Creator Randall William Cook (27 min) HD 
- NEW From The Depths – An Interview With Make-up Effects Artist Craig Reardon (15 min) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (1 min) HD 
- Video Promo And Video Store Contest Promo (2 min) 
- Still Gallery (5 min) 

Gate 2 (1990) isn't on par with the beloved original but it's a fun and entertaining sequel that tries to do something different while maintaining some familiarity. It has a lot of heart, plus the added benefit of some cool special effects. It's great to live in an age when we have The Gate and Gate II on Blu-ray and loaded with extras, I seriously feel spoiled sometimes when these previously hard-to-find titles get the deluxe treatment.  

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