Jackson Stewart’s directorial debut Beyond the Gates stars Graham Skipper (The Mind’s Eye) and Chase Williamson (John Dies at the End) as brothers who discover what turns out to be highly dangerous VCR game while clearing out a video store belonging to their missing-presumed-dead father (Henry LeBlanc).
“Steve Scarlata, my cowriter, who produced Jodorowsky’s Dune, he pitched me this idea of a VCR board game that opens another dimension,” says Stewart, whose film is screening 4 p.m., Oct. 15, at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival. “I said, ‘That’s the best idea I’ve ever heard. We have to start writing on that today.’ We started outlining it that afternoon and we were shooting about 11 months from when we first started writing.”
Other Beyond the Gates cast members include Brea Grant (Rob Zombie’s Halloween II), Matt Mercer (the Contracted franchise), Jesse Merlin (FDR: American Badass!), Sara Malakul Lane (Sun Choke), and Barbara Crampton, who plays the host of the game and is also a producer on the film. Crampton has appeared in a large number of movies over the past few years including You’re Next, Tales of Halloween, and the upcoming comedy-drama Little Sister. But she is still best remembered by genre fans for starring in a string of cult classic horror movies back in the ’80s and ’90s, including two Stuart Gordon-directed H.P. Lovecraft adaptations, Re-Animator and From Beyond. Stewart says the latter, in particular, was a big influence on Beyond the Gates. This deranged tale stars Ted Sorel as a scientist named Dr. Edward Pretorius who seemingly dies after using his invention, “the Resonator,” to breach the wall between our dimension and another. Jeffrey Combs plays another scientist, Crawford Tillinghast, accused of his colleague’s murder; Crampton is a psychiatrist named Dr. Katherine McMichaels, who comes to believe Tillinghast’s seemingly insane ravings; and Ken Foree essentially plays Crampton’s muscle, and the film’s voice-of-sanity, Bubba Brownlee, who is on hand to make sure nothing goes wrong when everyone decamps to Pretorius’ house. (It is not to spoil too much to point out that Brownlee singularly fails in this task.) The result is an out-and-out phantasmagoria, full of gooey body horror and twisted eroticism. It is also, according to Stewart, the perfect movie to watch over Halloween.
“From Beyond was a natural choice due to its huge influence on Beyond The Gates, from a story level all the way to the lighting,” says the director. “Stephen Scarlata and I loved the idea of being drawn to a device like the Resonator, where you know it is bad, and very dangerous, but you can’t seem to help [using] it for the promise of what it might bring if you can conquer it. Apart from that, the performances, Gordon’s direction, and the writing are all top-notch. There’s a nice rhythm with how many times Katherine McMichaels, Crawford Tillinghast, and the immortal Bubba return to the machine either looking to get their jollies off or for the greater benefit of humanity. While Re-Animator is a masterpiece, [with From Beyond], Stuart Gordon pushed the horror of Lovecraft into some mindblowing, stomach-turning sequences that few, if any, directors have done since.”
Beyond the Gates will be released in December. You can see the trailer for From Beyond and a teaser for Beyond the Gates, below. And you can learn more about the Brookyln Horror Film Festival at the event’s official site.