Tibor Takacs Takes Us Back Through The Gate: Monstrous Special EditionOn October 6th, Tibor Takacs' 1987 cult hit The Gate arrived on DVD in an all-new Monstrous Special Addition. During a boring, routine weekend, young Glen (Stephen Dorff) and his best buddy Terry (Louis Tripp) decide to explore Glen's backyard. Before long, the boys come across a strange hole in the ground, which yields all manner of sinister prizes. Consulting one of his heavy-metal record albums, Glen comes to the correct conclusion that the hole is actually the Gate to Hell. Offering a sacrifice in the form of a dead dog, Glen further opens the portals of Hades, through which pass some of the most hideous demons imaginable. We caught up with Tibor to chat with him about the long awaited DVD release. Here's what the director had to say:
What are your first thoughts when you go back and look at the film today?
Tibor Takacs: That it was one of my best experiences making a movie. It was a unique situation. Special circumstances allowed us an extra 2 months of prep. We planned well and had skilled producers that allowed us to carry out the plan without too much compromise. I think It shows in the final product.
The monsters in The Gate are still amazing to look at. How do you guys develop the look of the demons, and how hard was it to create them using the limited special effects at your disposal?
Tibor Takacs: During our extra prep, Randy Cook and I took the time to design and plan the effects carefully keeping in mind the budget we had. Randy's eclectic knowledge of makeup and effects allowed us to use an encyclopedia of techniques to make the Minions work. Blue screen, trick perspective, stop-motion, and puppets were all used in rotation. Once you thought you had it figured out, we'd introduce another technique. A process used to great effect was under-cranking. We'd shoot the minions at a lower frame rate so they would appear to move a little more furtively. And we coached them to move in special ways. One of the things that made it so great working with Randy was that he never saw our resources as limiting. He always spoke of the possibilities. Our careful planning allowed us to draw upon a lot of different techniques both old and new. Some of the old techniques used were very labor intensive. Careful planning and coordination with our production designer Bill Beaton made it all possible.
What was it like working with a ten year old Stephen Dorff, and did you suspect that a number of your actors would become as popular as they are today?
Tibor Takacs: Stephen Dorff really connected with the part and was very easy to work with. He didn't have a lot of experience at the time. But I think his naturalistic performance contributes greatly to what makes the movie work so well. His enthusiasm and natural abilities indicated to me that he would have a great career.
A lot of films came out around the time of The Gate that were inspired by the success of Gremlins. What did you do to ensure that twenty-some years later, your film would stand on its own and be remembered as its own entity, not some sort of bastardized rip-off of a more popular film?
Tibor Takacs: I never really thought about Gremlins the movie or referenced it during the making of The Gate. Gremlins felt more like an adventure movie than a horror film. Although Gremlins was clever and entertaining, I thought it didn't focus on the characters it was about. The Gremlins. The Gate is about Glen and his imagination. Not the Minions. Horror films need good character development to be effective.
There are some quite amazing shots at the end of the film dealing with a rocket. How difficult were those scenes to shoot, and what inspired the iconic climax we see?
Tibor Takacs: Randy did some really ballsy stop motion for that sequence. He drew upon his extensive stop-motion experience and work with Ray Harryhausen. He sculpted in extreme detail and had the camera closer to the puppets than I imagined possible. The detail on the Demon Lord was outrageous.
The dead dog sequence is still quite shocking, did you have any problems getting that scene shot, and was anyone ever against it?
Tibor Takacs: There was some discussion about cutting the dog. But in the end we went with our instincts. We felt our use of the dog in the story was not exploitive.
What is your fondest memory of being on the set?
Tibor Takacs: A couple of special shots that we didn't have time for during the scheduled shoot were missing at the end of principal photography. The scenes were already well covered and cut together. I asked the producers to give me a small crew and a few hours before we moved out of the studio. They gave me the go ahead. At the end of that day once the small unit wrapped I had gotten everything I wanted. There were no more shots that I wish for. I was completely satisfied. This is a very rare feeling for a director.
If you had to shoot the film all over again, is there anything you would change about it?
Tibor Takacs: That's a tough question. I wouldn't change much. Part of its charm lies in its imperfections.
What do you think of the fanbase the film has accumulated over the years? Did you think the film would have such a strong shelf life?
Tibor Takacs: It's a good feeling to know that The Gate is still on people's radar. Over the years it seems to have found its niche as a film for both kids and adults to enjoy. For young kids as a film that sparks their imagination and for adults it's a nostalgic look at childhood mischief. Sometime people forget it's a PG13 movie for kids and try to match it for gore and intensity against R rated 80' horror classics. It's really a different animal. I think its innocence is what sets it apart and makes it entertaining even for today's audiences.
Now that The Gate is getting the Special Edition treatment, do you think we will see The Gate II released on DVD and Blu-ray anytime soon? What happened with that film, and was it the sequel you'd always hoped to do?
Tibor Takacs: I have not heard of any plans for a re-release of Gate 2. It is a fun film, but there are a few things I would have liked to do differently. The Gate 2 was filled with decisions that were made because of budget limitations. Several things combined to mess with our plans: A major killjoy was the Canadian dollar shifting in value. It suddenly had gone up during prep and our budget had to be cut way back right before going to camera. The film was being paid for with American dollars. A lot of plans had to be changed with very little time left in prep.
What are the plans for The Gate remake?
Tibor Takacs: A 3D remake is in the works shooting in Germany.
The Gate: Monstrous Special Edition is currently in stores. Do yourself a Halloween solid and pick it up the next time you're in your favorite DVD outlet!