The Gates Of Hell (2008)

Sex :
Violence :
Director Kelly Dolen
Writers Kelly Dolen, Justin Dix
Starring Michael Piccirilli, Samantha Noble, Christian Clark, Bradley Tomlinson, Amy Beckwith, Steven Carroll
Genre Backwoods Massacre
Tagline Evil breeds beyond …


“We're making a horror movie we're not in one.” - Michael

Kelly Dolen's debut feature Reign In Darkness showed a lot of potential on a very limited budget so I was dead, no pun intended, keen to see what he could do with his follow up feature which had a much larger budget. The Gates Of Hell is another of those movies that have taken some time to arrive on my desk, curtsey of Rapidfire Productions, so the anticipation has been around for a while. Thankfully the movie delivered on all fronts and shows a Director with a strong nose for the horror genre. Let's crack open the gates and see what might spill out.

Five film makers are out to make an online horror movie and the Director, Michael, has chosen the run down and rumoured to be haunted Von Diebitsch Manor. The house certainly has an unsavoury pass, what with madness, children being mutilated, and the sort of depravity normally reserved for the Vorhees family crib. Naturally, since this is a horror outing, the would be film makers are not going to come through intact, someone or something still lives at the Manor, and wants to keep the traditions alive. Who will survive and what will be left of them?* (Yes there's a spot quiz at the end of this one, guess the reference).

Gates kicks off with a flashback to 1949, a couple are leaving their baby with an old German woman at an isolated mansion surrounded by a 15-foot blue stone wall that is only accessible via some kick arse metal gates. Loved the gates, dominating, and featuring heavily in the movie. The woman has second thoughts but that's not going to change anything given the storm wracked night and the unforgiving nature of those around her. Excellent opening to the movie that had me well hooked from the first frame, you know you are in for a good time when the period pieces look authentic and are not rushed to simply kick start festivities.

I was all over the first half of the movie as Dolen lays on an effective, atmospheric, haunted house tale that is god damn effective in getting that chill going down your spine. The Director is simply working with light and darkness, suggestion, and allowing the Audience to freak themselves out. It's outstanding stuff and with the knowledge of what has been happening previously at the Mansion that dripped blood, just what did happen to the baby from the prologue? - we are well set for the utter mayhem heading our way in the second, longer, block of the movie. Things ramp up during the first night our film makers spend camping on the grounds of Von Diebitsch Hell House (**), leading to one of the more insane twists in a dark genre movie that you are ever likely to stumble across. The conclusion to this one will rock your socks off and leave you wondering if a sequel to Gates might be in the works.

Behind the camera Director Dolen is going crazy with the cameras and throwing about everything you could ever wish to see in a horror move at the screen. We get a pan down to car headlights in the opening scene, I'm wondering if that was a slight homage to Dario Argento who heavily uses the same approach, plenty of track cam, and the sort of remote controlled cameras that give you those money shots that stick in the memory. Pacing is firmly mapped out, there is no lagging in the movie, with atmosphere and tension being high on the agenda. The promise Kelly Dolen held out in his previous movie has certainly been delivered on in Gates, fingers cross the decision makers in LA catch up with this movie. What the Director does very well is define his characters with out raising a sweat. How many horror flicks have you watch where when the end credits rolled you had no idea which character was which? In Gates we know exactly who is who and more importantly are hoping a few of the leads make it to the final scene, not telling so don't ask, go watch the movie to see who gets out of it.

There's also one of my favourite things in a good horror outing, plenty of referencing to horror icons for the viewer to rock on with. I noted Ed Gein, and if you don't know who “the butcher of Plainfield” is then you are on the wrong site, Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and The Evil Dead (1981). Actually Sam Raimi's movie is pretty influential in Gates, in a good way and not simply having scenes copied. I for one got a kick out of the trapdoor, there's some surprises waiting for you down in the cellar, and the cassette tape rocked.

Director Dolen's cast and crew is backing him to the hilt in Gates delivering a classic of Australian dark cinema in the process. For gorehounds there's one scene that will have you high fiving your blood soaked friends, excellent work by the props department there. Some of the camera work around the vehicles in use is unbelievable and forces you to watch the “making of” featurette to work out just how Dolen managed to pull that stuff off, well okay film geeks will want to know. And finally the cast, full of relatively unknowns, is pretty professional and nail their individual requirements to the delight of all.

Did I mention the score yet? Keith C. Moore delivers up a score dripping in atmosphere and malice that had me nodding my head in approval. It's creepy and gets the job done on the tension front. We also get a lot of rock numbers that naturally I didn't take any note of. A quick check of didn't elicit any soundtrack listing, so sorry you are on your own there.

During the week I had a conversation with a friend over a couple of beers where the topic turned to the $10 million dollar The Last Exorcism. Okay so I liked that movie, in the minority there I think, but we both wondered where on hell they spent $10 million to make a movie that looked like it should cost $1.5 million tops. Conversely Kelly Dolen has made a movie for $1.5 million that looks like it should have cost $10 million.

If after a copy, and I would urge you to seek one out stat, then as of writing your best bet is to hit the official site and order right here. The feature packed DVD will set you back $22.97 plus shipping. Most major credit cards and Paypal are accepted. Check which Countries the movie can be shipped to before ordering however. Why on earth Anchor Bay or someone similar don't hit this one for Down Under Distribution remains a mystery. Okay I got the unrated edition, guess the censors haven't got their grubby hands on the movie yet, and the disc turned out to be multi-region (a blessing given ScaryMinds' limited playback equipment).

Spot Quiz Time Kids

* Should be a no brainer.

** Slightly harder, think Roddy.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  Aussie Independant Cinema is alive and well.