Anyone old enough to feel nostalgic for the era of VHS board games should get a kick out of "Beyond the Gates," a horror movie as retro in style as subject matter. Though the film moves slowly — like a half-hour anthology episode stretched to three times its natural length — co-writer/director Jackson Stewart's obvious affection for obsolete technology earns some goodwill.
Graham Skipper and Chase Williamson costar as brothers who return home to clean out their family's old video store after their father mysteriously disappears. In a back room they find the tape from an old game called Beyond the Gates. When they start to play, they realize that if they finish, they might find their dad.
The scenes involving the game are the picture's best. Veteran scream-queen Barbara Crampton is a hoot as the hostess from the tape, seductively cooing instructions for the boys to find four hidden keys. As the lines between real life and game-play begin to blur, the resulting phantasmagoria is effectively freaky, with impressive gore effects.
"Beyond the Gates" is more imaginative than frightening, and Stewart and co-writer Stephen Scarlata take too long to get to the good parts, killing time with long dialogue scenes where the characters pause interminably between lines.
But their film is still often a lot of fun, especially in its more energetic second half. When the mayhem begins, viewers should follow the advice from the start of the videotape: Turn the lights down, and the volume up.
'Beyond the Gates'
Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes.
Playing: Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood