While some horror films, like Ti West’s House Of The Devil, pay homage to past eras of cinematic scares by taking up the mantle of an earlier visual style, others comment on the past while remaining rooted in the modern world. Beyond The Gates, a clever and appealing indie horror film from director Jackson Stewart, straddles the gap between those two tactics, reveling in a nostalgic look back at a bygone time and technology, while also incorporating some of the original visual and narrative tricks of the time. The story of two brothers who return home to take care of their father’s affairs months after his disappearance, the film follows the estranged siblings as they unearth an old VHS board game while sifting through the contents of their dad’s video rental store. The game turns out to be far more menacing than it would seem, and soon its ethereal host (played by genre icon Barbara Crampton, who we spoke to recently) is conveying mysterious messages to the guys about their dad.
With a firm commitment to old-school practical effects, Beyond The Gates makes a strong case for the appeal of such throwback entertainments as a VHS board game, albeit one that suggests you should beware what you pop into the video deck. The A.V. Club saw the film as part of the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival, and while our enthusiasm for it was guarded (“While much of the plot seemed haphazard—the game itself just had things happen willy-nilly, with little rhyme or reason, and the emotional beats in the ending felt unearned—excellent performances and superior direction made up for the weak stuff“), it nonetheless receives a “see this” endorsement. Barbara Crampton’s glowering VHS host alone is worth the price of admission to this haunted board game.