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The Gate II (1990) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

The Black Sheep series looks back at the 1990 horror film Gate II, a sequel to the 1987 cult classic The Gate

We’ve talked a lot about what makes a black sheep a black sheep. It can be a number of things really. We look at horror series and see what the underappreciated or even outright hated ones are to lift them up and defend them. It can also be a relatively underseen or unknown entity in the career of an actor, director, or series of films to shine a light and get it on more radars. A black sheep can be seen as bad at the time of its release (or even now) and just needs someone to speak of the positives for the flick. The Gate II (get it HERE) is, well, it’s all of that. It’s a mostly underseen and unknown movie in a short horror series that is not really loved by the people who have seen it. With the first movie in the series being a spooky kids classic, I’m here to tell you that not only is The Gate II worthy of the Gate moniker, its worth your time and attention too.

The Gate came out in 1987 and gave us a few things. First, it gave us a horror movie that you show your kids to gage whether or not they can handle horror. I think it’s a little scarier than The Monster Squad even if I prefer that movie due to Shane Black’s magic and the collected sum of its parts. The other big thing it gave us apart from its effects was the first on screen appearance of Stephen Dorf. The Gate still holds up really well as I recently showed it to my 10-year-old and apart from thinking that 1987 was too old of a year to watch a movie, ouch, he was invested from start to finish. He asked me, as he often does after our movie viewings, if there was a sequel. I told him yes but it’s not as good as the first one. There I was, already setting up the expectation that a movie wasn’t great even before he watched it. I was, in every sense of the word and then some, GATE keeping.

The movie, as was the first one, was directed by Tibor Takacs. It was written, just like the first one, by Michael Nankin. The budgets were similar, and they even had one of the actors return but it just isn’t quite the same. Director Tibor Takacs has a ton of experience with visual FX and had a fun little horror run with The Gate in 1987, I, Madman in 89, and today’s movie in 1990. He also helped create the Sabrina the Teenage Witch show and directed a few of the made for TV movies with the character while also working quite a bit in TV in general. His other horror output falls in line with Syfy channel originals and while they may not be great, they are a heck of a lot of fun. Rats, Mansquito, and Ice Spiders are just but a sampling of the late-night dumb fun you can have with his movies. Writer Nankin only has the first Gate and its sequel for scripts but is actually a pretty prolific director, particularly of TV. Sarah Connor Chronicles, The Purge, and Van Helsing among many others round out his directing jobs.

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The cast is mostly unknowns, or at least not well known, aside from Pamela Adlon as Liz. Adlon has over 200 credits and is particularly prolific in the world of voice over both in TV shows and even video games. Her daughter Gideon has followed in her footsteps and is becoming quite the actress in her own right in movies, tv shows, and video games. The cast is co-led by Louis Tripp as Terry, Simon Reynolds as Mo, and James Villemaire as John. Villemaire doesn’t have much to his name but did star in Italian horror disaster piece Zombi 5: Killing Birds. Simon Reynolds has had a much larger career including showing up in other horror Dark Water and P2. Finally, we have Louis Tripp who I thought I recognized from more things, but I guess the first Gate movie was a bigger part of my childhood than I reckoned because he really isn’t in much at all except these two movies.

The Gate II (1990) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

The Gate II opens with Terry going back into his friends abandoned house after the family moved away and trying to trade with the evil forces there. The first movie shows he comes from a bit of a broken home, but this one has things much worse with his alcoholic father not being able to support the two of them. Terrence wants to get the life back that was taken from him and will gladly mess with the demonic forces to get them. He looks a lot older than the first movie and its a little jarring even if the actor does a decent job here. Its not Stranger Things noticeable in terms of looking older but its still there.

Everything in the house that he sets up is appropriately techy for the time but now just looks like a bunch of NES accessories. Even though his friend Glen is gone, he is joined by a group of teens who have broken into the house to do bad teen stuff. Moe and John are your typical bully dbags but Liz is somewhat sweet and is very interested in the inner workings of demonology and the act itself that Terrence is trying to perform. They all pitch in things to sacrifice and are answered with demons in the forms of the little guys we saw from the first movie.

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These things look mostly as good as the first one, most of the 7-million-dollar budget I would reckon went to the effects here, but they overuse 1 in particular. Even though its shot and seemingly killed, Terence takes it home and it becomes a genie that can grant wishes but in the way that the monkey’s paw goes about wish granting, not like a friendly genie way. Terence’s dad gets a job back at an airline, but his alcoholism is still there and leads to a terrible accident. The other wishes kind of turn to crap. No, I don’t mean that metaphorically either. The car that Liz asks for turns to a big pile of poop, the things Terrence asked for do the same and even the things that Moe and Jon ask for all eventually crap out as it were.

The characters here actually have some charisma to them as well. Moe has medical issues that he needs to take an inhaler for, John is a jerk for most of the movie but ultimately has a good heart, Liz ends up liking Terrence for who he is, and Terrence realizes that nothing is worth bringing in evil to the world. While its not as dark or fun as the first movie it somehow got an R rating even though nobody actually dies, but more on that later. There are a couple of great sequences in the movie too that stand out amongst the rest. Very much a sum of its parts are better than the whole situation. The nightmare Terrence has before he finds out that his dad was in an accident is a lot of fun with the dad going completely off the rails in the cockpit and the way Terrence falls out of bed is an interesting looking shot.

The Gate II
The Gate II (1990) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

Moe and John fighting the minion that grants wishes leads to them turning into demons themselves, sort of like a zombie bite or werewolf scratch. John transforming is an effects showcase that is equal parts impressive and gross. It shows where that budget went even if the first movie still looks a bit better overall. After John changes into a monster, the other 3 go after him and also try to figure out how to reverse the damage that they did. Monster John kills Moe while Liz and Terrence go back to the abandoned house to do a different kind of ritual. A very not dead Moe, or maybe its undead Moe in this case, turns into a demon and they take Liz to sacrifice in their world to let more of the monster in. a hamster was sacrificed in the beginning, and it only brought one minion through so it stands to reason that a person will get the job done.

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The demon world looks great. The rest of the world is your typical milk toast suburban area while the steps leading up to the altar with a gorgeous matte painting in the background look great and make you want more. Terrence has to finish this, and the demons point out that hes the one that started all of this in the first place. They change him into a demon but before he is completely taken over and forced to sacrifice Liz, he fights back and closes the gate. Closing the gate destroys all of the demons though, including Terrence. The last scene is a fun mixture of makeup and costuming with that previously mentioned old school animated charm. Liz seems to be the only one who made it out alive but at the funeral, Terrence busts out of his coffin followed by Moe and John. Normally I’d say that’s a cheat but with the way the characters are, I’m actually not mad at it.

While this movie is probably relatively unknown, hell, I had heard of it but hadn’t seen it until a few years ago and never heard it talked about, it’s a black sheep to be celebrated. Not only did some of you probably grow up with it on HBO or Showtime, but it’s a fun sequel that decides to try out some new things rather than just rehash the same ground from the first one. While it doesn’t hit the highs of the first movie, it isn’t as bad as you would rightfully expect it to be and is a fun venture back into a universe that brings us back to being kids. It works best when you watch it right after the first movie but either way, The Gate II deserves a spot on your watch list and holds it’s own as one of horror’s Black Sheeps.

A couple of the previous episodes of The Black Sheep can be seen at the bottom of this article. To see more, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

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