Return To the Nightmare: Scream Factory Brings Us The Gate II

This is a weird one.  I won't be comparing Scream Factory's new blu of Gate 2, which comes out this Tuesday, to the old Canadian DVD because, even though I always knew abut it, I never picked it up.  Because I've never really liked this movie.  But we're looking at the blu today because I kinda had to have it.

The Gate, as far as I'm concerned, is one of the truly great horror classics of its decade.  I loved it as a kid, and not only did it hold up revisiting it as an adult; my appreciation for it grew.  So as soon as this sequel hit the video shelves back in '92, I was all over.  The Gate never felt like a franchise film, like a Freddy or Jason film, so I wasn't expecting it, and I was super excited.  And then that excitement just slowly drained out of me from minute 1 to minute 90 as Gate 2 wandered further and further from the promise of the original.
Not that it's all bad news.  They were only able to bring back one of the two kids from the original, but they brought back the most interesting one.  And the same core monsters were back, or at least one was, and the special effects definitely delivered.  So for the opening minutes, I was in.  The troubled preteen from the original is a little older, and understandably still obsessed over the literal Hell they raised in the previous film.  So he's back at it, trying to master the heavy metal magic they'd unleashed before in a controlled, semi-scientific way.  This time he intends to master it, but of course that blows up in his face right away.  So far so good.
But I could tell things were beginning to go South as soon as the bullies entered the picture.  These were a pair of goofy, greaser punks straight out of an 80s sitcom.  Certainly, The Gate played with the mixture of horror and humor; but it grew increasingly obvious the horror was being chucked out the window in order to double down on the comedy.  And this time the comedy was way more broad.  Instead of an army of small creatures spreading terror to lead the way for their dark master, this time we basically just have one little monster, who our characters capture and discover it can grant wishes.  So the bullies steal it, and they get a cool hot rod car and then go raise a ruckus at a fancy, upscale restaurant, replete with evening gowns, a small string orchestra and a snooty maitre d'.  The bully named Moe puts his feet up on the table, mispronounces the names of the fancy food and winds up pushing a waiter into a cart of trays as everyone gasps.  That's the kind of movie Gate 2 turned into.
So why did I have to have this one?  Well, partially because Vestron finally made a proper special edition of the original, and this makes a swell companion piece.  And, hey, I hadn't seen it since the old VHS days, when it was murky and fullscreen.  Maybe finally seeing it the way it was meant to be seen would raise the film in my estimation all these years later.  And it does a little bit.  It actually is photographed fairly well, and knowing the film I was walking into helped me past my initial disappointments and appreciate all the little touches and moments that do work.  It's not just the original kid who's back, who does deliver another worthwhile performance; it's pretty much the same filmmaking team.  The same director, the same writer.  So more of the character's personal story from the original is brought back here, making it feel like more of a full continuation than most horror sequels.  And this film still has a fun mixture of stop motion, prosthetics and rubber creature effects.  And I was surprised to recognize a young Pamela Adlon (of Louie and Better Things fame) as the young girlfriend character.
2018 US Scream Factory blu.
Scream's new HD transfer is made from a 2k scan of the interpositive.  For those keeping score, that's better than a print, but not as ideal as the original camera negatives.  So maybe it's not quite as crisp, but honestly, it's a very attractive picture.  Grain is visible but light, the image, well, obviously an entire world apart from anything we've seen before.  Admittedly, I've never seen the DVD, but I do know it was fullscreen.  Anyway, the blu here is slightly matted to 1.85:1 and what really stuck out to me the most was the colors.  You expect to see a little shelf-wear along the edges of a low budget flick from this many years ago, but it looks surprisingly good here.  I was impressed.

For audio, we get the original stereo mix (which sounds like what it is, a little low budget and dated) in DTS-HD and optional English subtitles.
This being a questionable sequel, what really drew me into this release was the special features.  Again, it was mostly the same team as the original, so that Vestron disc had me hungry for what these guys had to say about their follow-up.  And probably because Scream Factory could smell an under-performer with this title, the disc is a little light on extras, but what it has is pretty much just what I wanted.  The main feature is an almost half hour discussion between the director, screenwriter and one of the special effects artists: Randall William Cook.  It's co-produced by Red Shirt Pictures and pretty much addresses everything you want to hear.  Then one of the other effects artists, Craig Reardon, gets a second featurette all to himself, where he goes over his contributions to the film.

Those are both pretty great, but unfortunately that's pretty much it.  No commentary or anything.  Again, I think Scream wanted to keep their budget low in this one.  But what we got works.  There's also a few promotional items, like a video trailer, a brief promo video, a stills gallery, and a fun vintage audio recording for a $1000 contest that was run in conjunction with the film's original VHS release.  As you can see, Scream's cover uses the original VHS art, but it also has reversible artwork, using an old German video tape cover on the flip.  Two pretty neat options, with neither being that cheesy comic book style stuff they usually produce.
So look, Gate 2 is Gate 2.  Not everything in Scream Factory's line-up is a masterpiece.  If you're a fan and grew up with the film, though, you should be super happy with this release.  I doubt we'll ever see a better edition in our lifetimes.  And even if you're not particularly impressed with it - hey, it's not entirely unamusing.  And like I said, when combined with Vestron's special edition of the original Gate, it feels like one complete, satisfying package.

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