ByManny MassGrave Serrano, writer at
I am an independent horror filmmaker in NYC. Co-owner of Mass Grave Pictures, and director of the slasher film, Blood Slaughter Massacre. I
Manny MassGrave Serrano

It's Throwback Thursday, and I felt like taking you back to what was easily one of my favorite films growing up as a kid; the 1987 film, The Gate.

The film was pretty successful having been made for $2.5m and bringing in over $13m in theaters. That may not sound like much, but with today's inflation rates, that's like a $5m movie pulling in nearly $27m today, which is about average for a modern horror film nowadays.

The Gate was about two pre-teen kids, Glen and Terry who accidentally summon demons through the hole in Glens yard, after reciting an incantation they heard on one of Terry's Heavy Metal records. The demons descend on the house, trapping Terry, Glen, and his sister Alex, forcing them to fight off the demons while their parents are away for the weekend.

There was a 3D remake planned in 2009, which would have been directed by Alex Winter, and even would have used the original filming script (the ORIGINAL script was something else, but we'll get to that later) for the movie, and the demons were going to be designed by H.R. Giger. Unfortunately the film never came to fruition, and with Gigers recent passing, we may never see what he would have created for the film.

I have a bunch of other facts about The Gate you probably didn't know either, so let's get into some of the really interesting stuff that made this movie so cool.

Stephen Dorff

aw look, he's all growed up!
aw look, he's all growed up!

Starting off with an easy one, this was Stephen Dorff's first feature film role. He's easily gone on to have the most successful career out of all the actors from the film, having been in many fan favorite films such as Blade, Cecil B Demented, Immortals, and Public Enemies. Yeah, that was too easy. let's try another.

Terry really is a Satanist! Maybe..

i had those sheets too!
i had those sheets too!

We all loved Terry, and we certainly all wanted his record collection. I mean, come on, if your friend had a record that could summon demons, you'd wanna listen to it too, right? He went on to star in the sequel, The Gate 2: Trespassers. Unfortunately the movie flopped, taking almost two years to be released in the US. It wasn't until the success of the original on home video that producers decided to release it. As for Terry himself, well..
He retired from acting at 17 years old (but played an uncredited bit-part in Detroit Rock City at 29) and changed his name to Twelve Twenty (L=12, T=20, clever..) He moved to Australia and changed his name again to Baph (short for Baphomet) Tripp. He's currently a writer, and composer of:

"confrontational, experimental' music, which 'occasionally resulted in the involvement of the humane society and the police." -

He also looks like this now:

that tattoo couldn't have been a comfortable experience..
that tattoo couldn't have been a comfortable experience..

Never would have guessed that Terry could turn out like that. Or, maybe we did...

i think i had that cloak int he 90's...
i think i had that cloak int he 90's...

The Sacrifyx is not a real band.

i'd kill for a copy of this record..
i'd kill for a copy of this record..

The album "The Dark Book" was created specifically for the film. Although, the band and the logo was based on a Canadian Thrash Metal band called Sacrifice.

They broke up in 1993, then re-united in 2009. They didn't die in a plane crash, and are most certainly still alive today. They released 5 albums in total, none of which are known to summon demons either. Bummer..

The music for the band in the movie was based on The Killer Dwarfs, which is also the back-patch Terry wears in the movie.

killer vest, bro..
killer vest, bro..

Real Bible Passages

Yeah, you probably figured that the passage the Lee Sisters chose for Terry to read was a real passage from the Bible, but what passages were they?
Psalms 59:1 - 59:9

demons hate religious stuff!
demons hate religious stuff!

The Psalm is the story of David, essentially asking God to protect him from his enemies, who search for him like 'hungry dogs' in the night. The issue here though is, it's just a Psalm, which is essentially a prayer. Doesn't mean God actually did anything to help David. And as we see in the movie, reading the Psalm didn't actually do much to save them either. Nice try, girls..

The House was Fake!

Well, not completely.. Shot in Toronto, the house was real, but it didn't have a back door with stairs that fit with the scenes they needed to shoot. So, they built an exterior exit for the house; brickwork, bug zapper and stairs.

As you see later in the film, the staircase was needed for a specific shot of the demons running up the stairs after Alex. I'll explain later how that scene was shot.

So was the Backyard!

Also, not entirely. Most of the backyard scenes were actually shot in the yard of the house, but it was a new housing development. Which worked well because there weren't many neighbors to disturb during filming. The downside? The crew had to put up a fence around the yard to block all of the construction trucks and workers in the area that were still building houses!

The close-up shots of the hole in the ground, with the smoke pouring out, were shot in the studio though. So, that part was faked. The tree was also not really there. In Canada, it's illegal to cut down trees of that age, so they had to find an old dying tree that matched what they needed, built the interior set of the kitchen for Glenn to exit through in the beginning. Then, brought that set to the location of the tree, just so he could walk towards it in one shot.

Man, the things filmmakers go through for their art..

The original script was WAY different and much darker.

At first, the script was way more dark and violent than the final film. Michael Nankin wrote the script while he was unemployed, and recently divorced. He wrote the script out of anger and wanted to write a script about "the nastiest thoughts from [his] childhood."

The kids were more mischievous, and quite a bit more deserving of the fate that befalls them. When Glen and Al captured the moths, they would sit and rip the wings off of them. The hole was also not caused by the tree crashing. The brothers of Glen and Al (which became the older sister, Alexandra) were trying to dig a hole to China, which is something Nankin actually tried to do when he was young with a friend. Their plans of finding China were foiled by the gardener who fell into the hole, and sued his friends father.

The original script called for the demons to move beyond the house, and take over the entire town. When the twisting cloud of evil shoots out of the ground, the demons would then be spread across the entire surrounding area. There were scenes of the neighbors being taken out of their homes, dragged into the street and killed by the demons. The hole would eventually grow larger and suck parts of the neighborhood into it. The demon-lord was more human-like, stalking Glen and Al around the house, made out of blood and entrails.

how are we gonna clean this up?
how are we gonna clean this up?

Eventually, it was decided that filming it as-is would be too costly, and they scaled it down. They also didn't think any studio would green-light a script starring a bunch of very young kids (formerly meant to be 8 or 9 years old) surrounded by such brutal violence and evil.

The dog, Angus, also never came back in the end, and we can't have that.

Terry is real, and the Workman story may have been true!

The screenwriter, Michael Nankin, moved into a new neighborhood when he was young (about 4 years old). He met a young kid there Terry (whom the character is based on) who told him that the house he just moved into was haunted, and that a workman had died in the house while it was being built.

Welcome to the neighborhood, kid.
Welcome to the neighborhood, kid.

The Eye-Hand actually belongs to the Special FX artist.

Yep, this is not the hand of a 12 year old Stephen Dorff. It is in fact the hand of Randall William Cook, Special FX Supervisor for the film. As is the eye! It was shot later in the studio. Cook also worked on the original Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, Ghostbusters, Puppetmaster, The Thing, and many more films that are well-known for their FX.


I've saved the best for last! The most astounding part of The Gate is the way it was filmed. Many decades ago, a technique was developed called Forced Perspective. You see examples of this in all those awesome paintings and photos that, when seen from one perspective (forced), the image tricks your eye into seeing something that isn't actually happening the way you see it.

looks like shes got a little crush...
looks like shes got a little crush...

Many scenes in The Gate were filmed with this method. Back when they made the film, it was considered an old trick that wasn't used often anymore. It was very popular in the 50's and 60's with the old Sci-Fi films of the time.

In The Gate, the small demons were actually full-sized stunt actors in rubber suits. They used many forced perspective tricks to make you think they were tiny, when they were anything but.

The demon actors were staged 15 feet below and a few feet behind the bedroom set, next to furniture that had been enlarged to make them look smaller. The actors were then positioned onto a platform (seen on the right side of the above shot, next to the bed), and secured to the wall. The camera and lights are positioned in such a way, that the separation between the two levels of the set are masked.

Those who know this scene, also know these demons appeared after the workman from the wall fell to the ground. That was filmed just as cleverly. The actor playing the workman stood in position, and then fell forward, dropping to the set level below, onto mattresses, then cut. They used a piece of glass in front of the camera, to outline where his body fell, then positioned the demons on the set below to fit inside this outline, held in front of the camera. When the director called "action," the demons would jump upward, and then began moving around the room. The two scenes are then spliced together in post, superimposing the demons over the shot of the worker falling, making it look as though he hit the ground, and the demons jumped out. Knowing what to look for, you can tell in the wide shot that the actors were secured to the wall by their waistline, to keep them from moving out of the proper position for the shot.

more Forced Perspective combined with green screens
more Forced Perspective combined with green screens

This is the same method that was used to make the Hobbits seem small, and Gandalf seem big. Seeing as the FX Supervisor worked on Lord Of The Rings, you see now that he was no stranger to this technique. Casablanca used a similar approach for the famous final scene. It was shot in a studio, and the plane was a painted backdrop. They used midget actors walking in front of it to create the illusion of the plane being normal sized, and they simulated rain to draw your eye away from the background.

CORRECTION: As seen in the comments below, the FX Supervisor himself, Randall William Cook, has said that it was not an actor, and was in fact a dummy.

"The falling workman was a rigid dummy, hinged at the feet--- and he didn't fall onto mattresses, but onto a small square of plywood, which was suspended at "human floor" level (same level as the standing actors). We wouldn't risk dropping a stuntman in such a fashion, and mattresses would have required more extensive roto matting to remove, as opposed to the comparatively small "stopping platform" we used."

Thank you for the correction!

That's pretty damn cool! I'll bet you'll never watch The Gate the same way again, and that's a good thing! I think knowing the way it was made, all the hard work people put into it, and the creativity it takes to bring it all to life, makes me appreciate the film so much more. Hopefully you can agree!

UPDATE! (making this, officially, 11 things you didn't know!)

Since writing this article, I have come upon a pretty cool page on Facebook, and was contacted by the man who runs it, Joe Hart. In October of 2016, in Toronto at Horror-Rama, there will be a 30th Anniversary Gate Reunion!

Details are still rolling out on this event, so check out and follow the official Facebook Page for more details as they become available!

For more interesting tidbits about another awesome classic horror flick, check out my article Stuff You Didn't Know About Creepshow!U


Be sure to check out to get info on my films, watch some trailers, and download my podcast, What Lurks On Channel X.


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