Chase Williamson

Beyond the Gates

It was the 80’s retro throwback feel that initially drew me to Beyond the Gates. Well that and Brea Grant, who I have been having a bit of video love affair with and is once again delightful. Beyond Brea Grant, Beyond the Gates also features famous scream queen Barbara Crampton in a different kind of role for her. Which is a refreshing change, it’s nice to see director Jackson Stewart placing her in the strange role of the video host. Though Beyond the Gates isn’t all roses, as it takes a while for the retro feel to start going and the film’s bare bones, low-budget quality of the film at times feels like it’s holding the film back.

Estranged brothers, John (Chase Williamson) and Gordon Hardesty (Graham Skipper) reunite to clean out their alcoholic fathers video store after his latest disappearance. Which has lasted so long that he’s thought dead. While cleaning out the shop, Gordon’s girlfriend Margot (Brea Grant) comes to visit and help. They break for the day and have an awkward run in with John’s friend Hank (Justin Welborn) while at the┬árestaurant, eventually leaving rather than get into a confrontation. While in bed that night Gordon refuses Margot’s advances as he feels awkward about having sex in his fathers bed. While turning the lights out to go to sleep Gordon finds the missing key to the office. Which he explores the next day with John, inside they find a VHS board game, Beyond the Gates. They take the game home and along with Margot start playing. The video host (Barbara Crampton) spurs on the players and the players realize that by completing the game they may find John and Gordon;s father. But fist they have to survive the game and move beyond the gates…

While the film was overall okay, I found a few aspects lacking. Mainly it was how bland and apathetic feel. From the bar confrontation, to the brothers discussions on the father, to killing people for keys for the board game. None of them feel conflicted or even bothered by events that are happening. They just all roll along with what’s happening. Which makes them feel a bit like sociopaths.

The other issue the game, which overall I really like as I’m a fan of the VHS games being introduced to them via Atmosfear by a close friend back in high school. So as far as a game goes Beyond the Gates looks fun, you know, other than it being supernatural and would likely get me killed. My issue is the lack of why with the game. It’s origins are never explored nor is the purpose that it’s suppose to serve. Other than a cryptic warning at the end of the film.

I love the visuals in the film, the neon pinks and blues give a great atmosphere. One that’s as memorable as it is engaging. It was these moments that I found to be the most interesting, both for looks as well as tone. These visual elements are perfectly paired with the synthesizer music. Which is without a doubt is my favorite element of the film. I just with that it had been used more.

Final thoughts, it’s okay. Bland at times, but visually rich at others. The characters are hard to relate to due the emotional vacancy they possess. A lot of the films themes, family, alcoholism, among others is often touched on but never truly explored. Sadly to the films determent. If you’re looking for a terrifying horror film, I wouldn’t recommend Beyond the Gates. But if you’re looking for a low budget horror film with elements of an 80’s throwback then you might just enjoy this film. 6/10

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John Dies at the End

JohnDiesEndBigyellowFinaltheatv1aJohn Dies at the End is a 2o12 Dark Comedy/Sci-Fi/Horror film written and directed by horror icon Don Coscarelli.  Based on a web series turned novel by David Wong (pen name of Jason Pargin), Coscarelli acquired the rights in 2007 with principle filming starting in 2010. This film has a lot going for it, which is unsurprising due to the heavy involvement of both Coscarelli and Paul Giamatti.

The film follows a series of events as told by Dave (Chase Williamson) to reporter Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti). After attending a party where his friend John’s (Rob Mayes) band is playing. At the party he meets Amy (Fabianne Therese) who’s being harassed by another party goer. After the situation is resolved Amy heads off to find her dog Bark Lee (Bark Lee) as he ran off after biting a Rastafarian. Dave meets the Rastafarian who displays psychic powers to Dave’s dismay. Shortly after he finds Bark Lee and takes him home with him, intending to return him to Amy later. That night he’s awoken by a panicked phone call from John and rushes over to his home. Dave finds John freaking out on a new drug called Soy Sauce and tries to take him the hospital, but John refuses to go and passes out in the car. Dave accidentally injects himself with a syringe containing Soy Sauce that causes him to hallucinate. He is then assaulted by Roger North (Doug Jones) who tries to attack a large leech like creature to Dave’s chest. After managing to kill the leech and North’s disappearance, Dave and John are arrested and taken into for questioning by Detective Lawrence Appleton (Glynn Turman). The Detective separates the two for interrogation and Dave realizes that he knows the Detective’s questions before being asked. The Detective leaves the room and returns to inform Dave that John has died from the drug and tells him that others from the party have died in a similar fashion after taking an unknown drug (the Soy Sauce). He leaves again and Dave gets a phone call from John, who while dead is able to communicate with Dave due the Soy Sauce. He instructs Dave to safety and then to the Rastafarian’s trailer to pick up more of the Soy Sauce as it’s side effects are short-lived. At the Rastafarian’s home, he finds the sauce. But is shot by the Detective who is trying to destroy the Sauce and evidence of it after seeing it’s effects the night prior. Dave is saved by John, who smashes a hole in the wall while possessing the body of Bark Lee. He is then captured by one of the others who had taken the Sauce with John the night prior and has become possessed by a white mass of insects known as the Shitload. Dave, Bark Lee, Amy, Fred and John’s body. While not dead John is in a catatonic state until his mind is placed back from Bark Lee. This leads to the film’s climax where Dave and John learn the purpose of the Soy Sauce and their new roles as saviors of the world.

So John Dies at the End is a very good film with a number of memorable moments. Most these moments relate to films dark humor over the films actual scares. So while I wouldn’t consider this film particularly scary, its immensely entertaining. With non stop laughs interspersed with enough scares to keep the film barreling along at full speed.

The film’s cast does a stellar performance and I have a hard time thinking of one actor who didn’t deliver a memorable performance. Honestly when I first tossed this movie on I was expecting it be terrible with Paul Giamatti being the only part worth seeing. I can say without a doubt that my first impression was wrong and this film is quite entertaining. Paul Giamatti plays a relatively small role in the scope of the film. The best performance are those of Williamson and Mayes as the two play well off one another for banter and balance out the often ridiculous moments of the film. The casts strong performance make the strange turns of the film to feel natural, never causing the suspension of disbelief to break.

Final thoughts, see it. While it’s not for everyone with raunchy jokes that are often off-color, they fit the tone of the film. With a run time of 100 minutes it’s a 100 minutes well spent with little to no time being wasted on either development of the story or the characters there in. John Dies at the End is a great example of actors who enjoying their work can salvage seemingly awful plots. John Dies at the End is entertaining, hilarious and has just enough scares to keep its horror title, so John Dies at the End gets a well-earned 8/10.