Film Reviews

London Fright Fest: Beyond The Gates (2016)

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Jackson Stewart, Writer Director

Heading into the west half of London for some reason seems like a bit of an adventure. I rarely head over to Shepherd’s Bush, but it always amuses me that it’s full of Antipodeans. We head across and into the Vue, where at the top of the stairs we’re surrounded by beer swilling Londoners, all in jeans with black t-shirts printed with affiliations to different cult films or bands, tattoos and peircings adorning pale skin (this is Britain, so we’re all kind of pale). It’s refreshing to be amongst people who are enthused about something, and I start to get the feel of the place. It’s Fright Fest.

I’m glad that I thought to wear a black t shirt and jeans, though mine has 80’s vintage My Little Pony on it, and I wear my jeans with jaunty silver heels. (We all have our uniforms, I suppose)

A gruff and bored looking security guard tries to block me, and I smile and point out that I’m press and need to get past him to pick up my passes. He lets me through, and I sashay over to the tickets table, where the girl behind the booth tells me that the director who left the passes for me seemed really nervous.

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That director is Jackson Stewart (who, fun fact, cut his writing teeth on Supernatural at a young age), a friend whose film had it’s European Premiere that night at the festival. And I can confirm that he was nervous, but to put it in perspective, his film is one of the stand outs at the festival, and he has to introduce and talk about his film in front of three packed out screenings. I know that he’s around here somewhere, but checking my watch, I see that he must be inside the screening ahead of ours.

When the screening almost immediately sold out, I was gutted. When you know someone who is flying over from LA for their screening, well, you just want to be there. I love watching movies, but there’s something really special about seeing a friends name up in lights or on screen. (It’s a hard industry in a lot of ways, but oddly supportive and generous, which I think most people don’t see). For some reason, I feel slightly nervous. I want the film to do well, but I also haven’t seen it myself. What if it’s terrible?

Well, if it was I wouldn’t be writing this.

Beyond The Gates, which will be released in the UK in I think December, tells the story of two estranged brothers who discover an old VHS game in their fathers locked office after he goes missing. But they find they have bitten more than they can chew when the game turns out to have sinister and gory consequences. The only way out, and to possibly save their missing father, is to play the game.

Barbara Crampton plays the beautiful, vampish woman inside the VHS, and she’s delightful. It feels like she’s having a really good time and she is convincingly sinister. The cast as a whole is fairly solid, with a naturalness to their performances that you normally don’t get at this budget level, especially in the horror genre.

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With the films 80’s referencing, and it’s core family dramas, the story doesn’t feel too thin or contrived. And the deaths are pretty hilarious and gorey, in just the right way. I guess that it’s for those of you who love you’re 80’s schlocky horror films, and with the sequel in the works, hopefully things will only continue to grow for Jackson Stewart. (He deserves it, he’s a lovely guy).

Sitting in the audience, where, no joke, a guy was army crawling around giving out Jason Momoa sci-fi Blu Rays to the crowd, people ask intelligent questions, and Jackson gets a few laughs with his friendly, laid back answers. He doesn’t seem nervous at all.

We head down to say hi and he’s surrounded by delighted people who are asking for him to do selfies and sign things, and he seems happy. He should be, the film plays in several cinemas to what I think are packed audiences, who laughed in the right places and seemed pleased. I give him a quick hug, but very soon he’s whisked off to the next screening and a full schedule.

If you want to know more, there’s THIS interview with Jackson Stewart on the blog, or you can check out Beyond The Gates on IMDB HERE.
Fright Fest, which is held in London every year, is a great place to see a wide range of horror films, you can find their website HERE.
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