Gate II (1990) Blu-ray Review: Fun, But for Big Fans Only at Best

Scream Factory re-opens the door to the hotspot below with a stunningly clear 2K scan.
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My first viewing of Gate II was when the film first came to my hometown's dinky second-run theater (which was our only theater) in 1992, several months after the low-budget B-movie had already opened. It was the very kind of film our local cinema proudly shelled out for: something they could pick up on the cheap and pair with another "affordable" feature from the era for a barely-advertised double-bill ‒ which my best friend and I would see at the sparsely-occupied Sunday matinee for a whopping five bucks, per our weekly movie-going ritual. While we were well accustomed to seeing "older" movies, we were probably somewhat amused to see a 1989 copyright at the tail-end of the closing credits.

Granted, after more than a quarter of a century, I can't say I remembered very much about the film other than a cutesy stinger after the end credits and a nerdy hero who looked like a teenaged version of Phantom of the Paradise's mad tunesmith, Winslow Leach. But upon revisiting this somewhat "light-hearted" teen-oriented Canadian horror flick 26 years later, I was (rather pleasantly) surprised to note there were several scenes embedded in my subconscious; the sort of things you vaguely remember seeing, but have no idea where you saw them (two words: pimple popping). The one thing I really didn't recall after all these years, however, was the film's very apparent low budget ‒ which would not have been as noticeable on 35mm then as it is in 2K HD now.

In 1987's The Gate ‒ a film which could almost be described as a Hellraiser for tweens ‒ several youngsters (including some little kid named Stephen Dorff) unwittingly unleashed a horde of demons from below. Gate II (which also sported the subtitles Return to the Nightmare and The Trespassers just about everywhere but on the title card itself) takes place several years after the first film, with the one and only returning cast member ‒ Louis Tripp (the Winslow Leach-looking kid) ‒ once again opening a portal to Hell. This time, however, he's "assisted" by a couple of bullies and the very kind of "bad girl" I would have lusted after in high school, the latter of whom is played by voice actress extraordinaire Pamela Adlon (billed as Pamela Segall here).

Unlike the previous film (and most sequels in general), Gate II veers off into an entirely different neck of the woods, turning a supporting character from the first in to the hero (which I liked) while scaling down the horror considerably. Gate II also hails from that unique time in history when MPAA censorship was in full effect, green screens were still optional, and the purpose of a film was to entertain. It certainly succeeds in the latter, although anyone who doesn't enjoy the fine art of guys in rubber monster suits and mixed visual effects (forced perspective, stop-motion, etc.) may be disappointed. Truly, it's one of those love-it-or-hate-it sequels, as vastly different to the original as 1991's F/X2 ‒ which I also saw at my hometown theater on a double-bill ‒ was to F/X).

But that hasn't stopped Gate II from becoming a cult movie of its own in the years that have followed. Following on the heels of Lionsgate's 2017 Blu-ray debut of The Gate, Scream Factory has once again opened the doors to that hotspot below via a new 2K scan of Gate II. Sourced from an interpositive print, the film is presented in an MPEG-4 AVC 1080p encode and in its intended aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The transfer is extremely crisp and clear (to the point where many of the film's budgetary limitations stand out, even!), which will undoubtedly tickle the fancies of fans, and the DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack is more than adequate. English (SDH) subtitles are included for this release, and Scream Factory has gone the extra mile to give us some bonus goodies.

First up is Return to the Nightmare: A Look Back at Gate II ‒ a group discussion (in 1080p HD) with director Tibor Takács, screenwriter Michael Nankin, and visual effects creator Randall William Cook (the latter of whom is literally the center of attention throughout). Next on the roster is From the Depths, an interview with FX artist Craig Reardon (also in 1080p). The remaining special features have been culled from older sources, and consist of a trailer from a VHS cassette, a video promo, and even a video store contest clip (which is audio-only). It's a nice gathering of odds and ends for an odd end to an attempt at a horror movie franchise. A still gallery and reversible sleeve seals up this Scream Factory release, which is recommended to classic '80s/'90s horror movie fans.

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