The Gates (2023) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

The Gates (2023) Review

Horrorific content by adrian on July 03rd, 2023 | Movie Review | Survival, Cursed, Supernatural, Psychological, Confined, Police, Satanic, British

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It's about an about to be executed serial murderer who uses his dark arts to cast a curse on the prison he is in, and everyone in it.

The Gates was directed by Stephen Hall and stars John Rhys-Davies (Anacondas: Trail of Blood, Anaconda 3: Offspring, and The Ferryman), Michael YareElena Delia (House of Shadows), Richard Brake (Barbarian, Bingo Hell, and Tremors: Shrieker Island), David Pearse (Let the Wrong One In, Grabbers), Peter Coonan, and Brian Fortune (Model HungerAn Irish Exorcism, and Shackled).

The Gates Review

In The Gates, Brake plays William Colcott, a murderer in Victorian London who employs occult rituals, using the bodies of his victims in an attempt to resurrect his deceased wife. After being apprehended, Colcott becomes the first British prisoner to face execution by the newly introduced electric chair. However, given his proficiency in the dark arts, one can anticipate that things won't go as planned.

All of this unfolds within the first seven minutes of the movie, delivering a captivating display as Richard Brake fully embraces the role of a horror icon reminiscent of Anthony Hopkins or Robert Englund. Yet, the story soon transitions to Frederick Ladbroke (John Rhys-Davies) and his niece Emma Wickes (Elena Delia), who work as postmortem photographers. They are unexpectedly called upon to capture images of Colcott's lifeless body.

Following this encounter, Emma notices something peculiar in a close-up photo of Colcott's face—a presence that appears to be observing her. Initially dismissing it as a photographic technique, the two photographers resume their other occupation as paranormal investigators. They endeavor to sell their latest invention, the Atmosiser, a large contraption designed to attract spirits, to the Paranormal Society. However, their endeavor takes an unfortunate turn, introducing investigator Lucian Abberton (Michael Yare) to the unfolding events. Eventually, the narrative brings us back to Bishopsgate prison, where Frederick, Emma, Lucian, the prison warden, a couple of guards, a few prisoners, and the wife of one of the guards who has illicitly entered find themselves in the presence of an alarming revelation—William Colcott is not as deceased as his lifeless body suggests. As the remaining prisoners exhibit possession-like behavior and begin self-inflicting harm, the investigators must unite and utilize their available technology and religious resources to defeat the evil killer.

The plot appears enticing on paper, and there are instances of brilliance in the film. Co-writer/director Stephen Hall successfully constructs an oppressively atmospheric Victorian setting, despite the prison's overly pristine appearance. Notably, the pre-credit sequence and certain scenes induce genuine fear, such as a suspenseful pursuit between a priest and a possessed victim, skillfully employing shadows and silhouettes. While the narrative trajectory becomes predictable, the imagery effectively conveys the desired impact.

However, such moments are sporadic, as Stephen Hall struggles to determine whether to create a graphic horror film replete with gore, shocks, and jump scares or a more introspective procedural that delves into themes of religion versus technology, tradition versus progress, and the essence of evil. Unfortunately, he predominantly leans towards the latter approach when the movie would have been more compelling had it leaned towards the former. After all, why prominently feature Richard Brake and his menacing grin in the promotional materials if not to showcase it?

Brake's performance, albeit brief in the 101-minute runtime, is exceptional, solidifying his status as a horror film lead deserving of his franchise. John Rhys-Davies is also a delightful presence as the amiable Frederick Ladbroke, reminiscent of Van Helsing, albeit lacking some heroic attributes. The remaining cast fails to leave a lasting impression, as the supporting characters need more depth and remember to add much sparkle. Elena Delia brings a touch of naive charm to her portrayal of Emma, but the ensemble falls short overall.

With occasional anachronisms, vague occult references, and an underwhelming conclusion, "The Gates" suffers from uneven pacing and fails to make the desired impact given its talented cast and intriguing plot. If Stephen Hall had opted for a more visceral and tightly constructed horror script, true to the lurid promises of its marketing, the film could have achieved a more satisfying outcome, pitting Richard Brake in his demonic incarnation against the pompous John Rhys-Davies. This alternate vision would have been a more enjoyable experience.

Worth Watching?

When "The Gates" embraces its more obvious and clichéd horror elements, it excels and delivers genuinely chilling moments. However, those expecting a gore-filled spectacle led by Richard Brake may find their expectations deflated. Despite this, the film is worth a watch for the performances of its two leads. Aside from the gripping pre-credit sequence and the intriguing suggestion of a Richard Brake-led remake of "Shocker," "The Gates" falls slightly short of expectations, leaving some room for disappointment.

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