GORE IN THE STORE
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans
THE GATES **
Directed by Stephen Hall.
Starring John Rhys-Davies, Michael Yare, Elena Delia, David Pearse, and Richard Brake.
Ireland 2022 112 mins Certificate: 15
Released on Digital by 101 Films on July 3rd 2023.
Director Stephen Hall’s first feature since 2018’s NIGHT SHIFT is a sometimes endearing, ultimately uneven mishmash of horror fads from the last few decades. It begins like a belated entry in the 1980s trend for executed-serial-killer-seeks-revenge horror movies that encompassed, among others, PRISON, THE HORROR SHOW, Wes Craven’s SHOCKER and THE CHAIR and was reborn as the underrated, eerie Denzel Washington chiller FALLEN in the late 90s. Thereafter, it turns into a hokey period creeper, set in Victorian London with various accents and anachronisms. A greatly inflated running time does it no favours…what’s with everything pushing (or exceeding) two hours these days?!
The prologue has the look and feel of a sequence from some long-forgotten, post-9/11, torture-based American horror film. Arterial spray abounds when grinning psychopath Richard Brake, murderer of apparently 28 women, has his mysterious ritual (involving his wife’s corpse and a bound, screaming woman on a table) interrupted by the authorities. At the decrepit Bishopsgate Prison, he winds up having the honour of becoming the first person to take the hot seat in an imported electric chair, which is being trialled in the U.K. as a more humane alternative to existing forms of corporal punishment.
Meanwhile, John Rhys Davies and niece/associate Elena Delia are post-mortem photographers assigned to capture Brake’s grotesque visage in the morgue. While enduring disparaging remarks from sniffy coppers (“The corpse people”), they are on a mission to fund the research for their true vocation: the “Atmosisor”, a cutting-edge machine allegedly capable of creating magnetic fields, thinning veils, and separating wavelengths to enable spirits to communicate with the living. A rather different expert, Michael Yare, shows up to create tension with Davies’ work and is dismissed by the older man for his “voodoo mumbo jumbo and a dangling bit of string”. This becomes irrelevant when Brake appears to have returned from the grave to perpetrate paranormal horrors at the prison.
There’s possibly a silly but fun 90-minute movie somewhere, with echoes of past genre glories like THE ASPHYX and THE STONE TAPE, alongside less glorious, more recent fare like THE QUIET ONES and THE APPARITION. Though Delia is saddled with a dull, underwritten character and Yare suffers from the worst of the dialogue, Rhys-Davies brings plenty of bluster and appeal to the ageing pioneer of an early version of E.V.P. The marvellously imposing Brake (recently afforded a much stronger showcase in BARBARIAN) is suitably repellent and feral in a role that sadly amounts to an extended cameo.
Hall evokes some atmosphere in the sparsely populated prison as the inmates start to perish mysteriously, but too much time is spent on repetitive exposition and heavy-handed efforts to convey the divide between science, superstition, and the Church – all of which has been done much better elsewhere. It veers between the ponderous and the overwrought, occasionally veers into the unintentionally comic territory and delivers a climax involving a priest-taunting possessed character and projectile vomiting that seems to have strayed in from another film, albeit, like everything else, another film that we’ve already seen several times before.
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans