Film and TV

A Night of Demons and Devil Metal at Alamo Drafthouse

Some horror movies are really more than the sum of their parts. Take 1987's The Gate, starring Stephen Dorff. It's a schlocky, Satanic masterpiece akin to Evil Dead in that the special effects dance the line between laughable and horrifying, though in The Gate's case it's aided by some endearing Ray Harryhausen-inspired stop-motion animation.

Both movies deal with the inadvertent release of demonic forces, both feature loved ones turned into possessed doppelgangers, and both films' only hope for intervention hinges on a single book. To be fair, The Gate calls to a simpler time, when the Bible and the power of innocent love between friends and family are all the weapons needed to defeat the most powerful of diabolic forces.

Its message of black and white good and evil feels naive in today's more nuanced and antiheroic offerings, and therein lies its appeal. Its very hokeyness adds to its status as a classic. That's one of the reasons that Robert Saucedo was so keen to screen the film at Alamo Drafthouse, along with its 1990 sequel, as part of Alamo Drafthouse's Graveyard Shift.

"I've been a big fan of The Gate since my early childhood -- a screening courtesy of my older sister in what was either a plan to nurture a young horror fan or traumatize a child forever," said Saucedo via e-mail. "The Gate is a great example of a good, scary horror film that is appropriate to share with a kid. Hopefully this screening will remind audience members what it was like to be a frightened kid again -- and also remind them that there are age-appropriate horror films out there for the little ones."

At the time that The Gate was made, America was deep in the throes of paranoia relating to Satanism being slipped to children hidden in heavy metal records. The supposedly subliminal lyrics, apparent if the albums were played backwards, turned children away from the Christian faith and toward acts of violence and suicide. Judas Priest was famously named in a lawsuit relating to the deaths of two men for sinister hidden messages. The suit was dismissed.

Saucedo, always ready to up the ante on Graveyard Shift events, has tapped into the old fear and invited Church of Melkarth to play a set between The Gate and the sequel. The band's leader, Justin Whitney, is well-versed in many demonologies, both fictional and historical. His music is everything that a responsible parent would ban from the house lest it summon evil from the void.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner