Beyond the Gates (2016)
Directed by Jackson Stewart
Written by Jackson Stewart, Stephen Scarlata
Produced by Barbara Crampton, Jackson Stewart, Stephen Scarlata, Ian Keiser, Jon Kondelik, Amanda Mortimer, Georg Kallert, Rob Schroeder, Chris Delp, Sarah Stewart, Nils van Otterloo, Brad Wright, Donna Kinni, Lynn Kinni, Ted Kinni, Tim Kinni, Mike Murphy, Gabby Revilla Lugo, Cyrus Stewart, James West, Tony Zika
Starring Graham Skipper, Chase Williamson, Brea Grant, Barbara Crampton, Matt Mercer, Jesse Merlin, Justin Welborn, Sara Malakul Lane, Henry LeBlanc
“To each his own nostalgia” seems to be an unspoken precept of genre cinema created by late Xers and early millennials, which is fated to mine every last phenomenon of pop culture from the ’80s. On the seventh proximo following their widowed father’s last of numerous disappearances, two alienated brothers — an uptight cut of office veal (Skipper) and a scruffy layabout (Williamson) — reunite to liquidate his video rental store and sell their childhood home. In the shuttered shop’s office remains a singular video board game hosted by a theatrically threatening blond (Crampton), and played to preternaturally, progressively perilous interactivity — the only means by which they can find what befell their dad since they left home. Commendably novel, and acted with unexpectedly expressive nicety by its leads, this economically budgeted horror/fantasy skimps on neither gore nor gimmickry when it isn’t dwelling on its fraternal protagonists’ rousing retrospection — much of which justly laments the deterioration of the nuclear family. Alas, Stewart and Scarlata spoiled their momentum with a few too many breathers, and their third act is preoccupied with ridiculous roughhousing when its fantastical and locational potential should’ve blossomed. Brendan Wiuff’s design for the game is also of a mixed caliber: its logotype, and box’s, board’s and cards’ artwork fit their epoch, but their hot pink accents and typefaces are less redolent of Kiddie City circa ’86 than Spencer’s or Hot Topic in ’98. An absorbing montage of a VCR’s working innards during the opening credits is enlivened by Vincenzo Salvia’s synthesized Outrun With the Dead, which overshadows Wojciech Golczewski’s flatly hackneyed score. All its shortcomings notwithstanding, this imaginative and entertaining effort deserves a look; younger viewers will accept all those errors they can’t see.

Recommended for a double feature paired with The Gate or Ring.

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