Well, this one was interesting! The Gatehouse started as a foggy, whimsical journey aimed at a pre-teen audience. It was a movie that felt homey to me as someone who read Where The Wild Things Are as a youngster, and it felt like a film out of the 1990’s that was fantastical and mysterious. I really dug it. Based on the screenplay by Martin Gooch, The Gatehouse follows a struggling author and his 10-year-old daughter as they embark on a magical and deadly journey into the unknown. You see, the writer’s daughter, Eternity, loves searching the beautiful forests behind their home for buried treasure, and one day she strikes gold when she pulls a sacred stone out of the earth. This accidentally awakens a horned god who slept there and he really wants his special item back. Now, it’s up to Eternity, her father, and a small group of their neighbors and friends to unravel the mystery before more souls are lost in the ether. Scarlett Rayner, Simeon Willis, Linal Haft, Samantha White, Vanessa Mayfield, Sarine Sofair and Melissa Knatchbull star in this dark fantasy drama from award winning director Martin Gooch.
As I mentioned above, The Gatehouse starts as a quasi-children’s film before hitting a speed-bump at the 15-minute mark. The tone of the movie takes a definite turn when a gun wielding, creepy old man arrives on the scene. He serves to make the viewer uncomfortable, but he also gives way for Eternity’s disturbed side to come out. For a 10-year-old, she’s pretty dark and demented and psychologically advanced for her age. So, that breaks The Gatehouse away from the children’s flick pit-fall almost from the get-go. Eternity is lovable but too damaged to be a cookie-cutter Disney character. Also examining this title from the perspective of story content, it differs from other entries in its category because the subplot of the father being a troubled writer isn’t overbearing and used to make his mental health deteriorate. A personal tragedy that befell his family did that enough already. As the story progresses, the viewer gets to know Eternity from all angles and I think most people are going to root for her. A lot of difficult obstacles stand in the way of her happiness and she navigates these trenches with youthful gusto. And that’s before a half tree, horned monster makes his appearance.
And the horned god is my biggest praise and source of contention. He was an awesome character, an awesome villain and was quite stunning to look at when taking practical effects and concept/design into consideration, but I feel like he wasn’t used to his full potential. Does he kill people? Yes, several, but his screen-time is kept impossibly short until the last 15 minutes. I wanted to see more of him for sure. He looked like a mythical creature straight out of Lord of The Rings and he helped The Gatehouse stay firmly rooted – no pun intended – in the worlds of fantasy and science fiction. When he’s not on screen, the viewer has to rely on their imagination, local lure, and a talented real-life witch to keep the film cohesive and within genre borders. Without him, it’s a basic family drama. He’s quite literally the gatehouse of the movie. The Gatehouse is rich in metaphors and thematic-goodness, but it’s missing a little bit of that extra oomph that would have served for a more enthralling movie. More activity from horned god guy and more discussion of “the legend of the black flowers” would have helped this independent title completely knock it out of the park.
The Gatehouse is produced by Martin Gooch, Grant Parsons, Clare Pearce, Simon Woodgate and Martin Myers. It was edited by Gooch and features cinematography from Mark Hammond and horned creature creation from Inma Cook. A piece of a young girl’s youth is stolen in the middle of an earthy, whimsical, and enchanting film from Martin Gooch. This title features hazy woodlands and Old English buildings that’ll calm the viewer into submission before shattering the feeling with magical suspense and real-world violence. Add in stunning visuals and above-average acting performances and this one is better than I expected. It’s a little outside the realm of horror, but it’s still thoroughly enjoyable to cinema buffs looking to revisit a nostalgic, child-like atmosphere that’s slightly darker than before. I should also mention that The Gatehouse is the perfect winter movie to watch with a fire roaring in the background. Look for it on demand via Uncork’d Entertainment starting December 5, 2017. Final Score: 7.5 out of 10.