When The Ring was first released in theaters, the concept was unique and actually threatening. A VHS tape with a trapped spirit. VHS tapes were regularly rented and borrowed from friends, and the more they were played, the worse the tracking got, causing lines on the screen. As the movies continued, most importantly with the recent sequel Rings, the concept was all but lost on most audiences, given that the original premise surrounded an out-of-date and forgotten media.
Yet VHS is still used by some, and for many is a collectible. For this reason, Beyond the Gates (2016, NR) works so well. While closing their father’s video store months after his mysterious disappearance, Gordon (Graham Skipper) and John (Chase Williamson) find a tape sitting in the player in his office. The tape, belonging to a video board game, is labeled “Beyond the Gates.” For whatever reason, their father had played the game’s tape prior to vanishing.
The game’s objective, according to the creepy woman on the tape, is to find all 4 keys that unlock the gates to Hell. To find these keys however, there are prices to pay. Not too difficult… unless you actually pay attention to the clues that tell players who pays the price. It seems the game is more than just a VHS tape, a board, and pieces (this wouldn’t have an 84-minute running length if it was). Think Jumanji meets the Evil Dead: one roll of the die and your best friend’s heart explodes.
I had been eagerly awaiting seeing this movie after realizing how corny the trailer was. Very little gore, with a comprehensive plan of action, combined with nostalgia for video board games. Once the game is revealed however, I understood why the film was so short. As with board games of this type, clues are revealed to help guide players to the next part of the game. Unfortunately, these clues are revealed at the very beginning of gameplay as John, Gordon, and Gordon’s girlfriend Margot (Brea Grant) flip four cards with vague answers to the locations of the keys, accompanied by perfectly drawn pictures of each character in the film. I found it very annoying that nobody realized who the “maiden” and “noble one” or, worse yet, “the father” were meant to be.
Despite these flaws, and the film’s unsatisfactory ending (which I will refrain from revealing), Beyond the Gates takes the mystical board game trope and reintroduces it with more flare and class than movies like Zathura had, adding the nostalgia of the VHS tapes of our childhood. If you are looking to waste 90 minutes of an evening and want a good laugh with a few scares, this is the movie to check out. Beyond the Gates can be found on DVD/Bluray as well as on Netflix. You can check out a couple of the trailers on YouTube.