I saw part of this movie a long time ago.
The tree in Glen's backyard is felled in a storm leaving behind a big hole in the earth. After their parents leave home for a few days, Glen's older sister, Al, has a party in which the kids levitate Glen. What was supposed to be a fun parlour trick ends in tears when Glen gets scared. Al shuts the party down and lets Glen's best freind, Terry, sleep over to appease her brother. That night Terry dreams about his dead mother and wakens into a nightmare when he finds the family dog dead on the floor. The following day, Terry suspects they might have inadvertantly opened a gateway to hell, but he's not too bothered by it since they didn't finish the ritual. Al then leaves the still-upset Glen to go hang with her friends and her would-be boyfriend, Eric, promises to dispose of the dog. And so he does, in the hole in the backyard. The burial kickstarts a series of events that culminate in the master of hell rising out of the earth to take over the world.
The Gate is classic 80s kiddy horror. And I don't mean kiddy in that it's watered-down goosebumps-style horror for children, I mean that it's a horror that is brought on and eventually vanquished by kids. In the same vein as Monster Squad and The Goonies, The Gate features abscent parents, child ingenuity, and arcana in a fight against evil. The children are innocent and their behaviour is age-appropriate--something seldom seen in horror film today.
Not really scary, the movie is more quirky than anything. My personal favourite moment is when Glen calls Eric a fag. There's a least five years between them, but Glen, in a moment of angre and bravery, stands up to Eric who is acting like a total jerk. Suddenly overcome with fear for what Eric might say or do, Glen then runs away. The scene perfectly captures how kids interact, testing their limits, and dealing with consequences. This scene is paralleled later on when Glen has to fight the hell master--though he would love to call it names and run away, he must instead stay and fight.
Also of interest is Terry. From the looks of him you'd expect him to be a dork, but Terry is angry and confused inside after the death of his mother, and he's immersed himself in heavy metal to cope with his loss. He wears a Killer Dwarfs jean jacket and listens to the imaginary death metal band Sacrifyx. His character constrasts well with his cohort, Glen, who's well cared for by his loving parents and sister. Where Terry wears a pentagram on his jacket, Glen wears shirts and jackets with astronaut patches which reflect his love for rockets. Outwardly, the best friends appear to be very different, but inwardly they both possess the knowledge and the courage to fight against the evil brewing in the backyard.
When the gate is opened, first the hell master's minions spew forth. These are ugly little things and, in a brilliant creative move, relfect the overall look of the much larger and more terrifying hell master. Though the effects are somewhat dated, The Gate still stacks up against more modern fare simply because of the movie's originality and ingenuity. I think it's even more significant today simply because nobody makes movies like this anymore.