2019 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 18: Beyond the Gates (2016)

DAY 18. ONLY ON VHS Day: Watch something on true psychotronic format. If you don’t have access to a VCR then watch a movie with a VCR/VHS theme in it. 

Thanks to the Found Footage Festival, so many people have gotten the chance to see a lost part of the VHS era — board games that relied on your VCR.

Nightmare was chief amongst those games. Released in 1991, the game took place on The Other Side, a place of six Harbingers who claim authority over a region while dreaming of taking over the entire dark dimension and escape into the human world. When you play, you become one of them — Baron Samedi the zombie, Gevaudan the werewolf, Hellin the poltergeist, Khufu the mummy, Anne de Chantraine the witch or Elizabeth Bathory the vampire — and follow the rules of the Gatekeeper, whose wants to ensure that you don’t escape The Other Side.

The game was part of the Atmosfear series, created in Australia by Phillip Tanner and Brett Clements. It even came back in the 2000’s with two new games released on DVD.

To win the game, each player must use their opponents’ greatest fears against them in order to collect six keys. Over multiple versions and booster tapes, the game stayed more popular in Australia then it did in America, even getting its own music video and Pepsi-branded drinks.

Two brothers, Gordon (Graham Skipper, who wrote and directed Sequence Break) and John Hardesty (Chase Williams, John Dies At the End) have reunited at their father’s video store, sorting through the mountains of unwatched VHS tapes as they prepare to sell it. Dad’s been missing for seven months, Gordon has left town long ago and John’s life is going nowhere.

The next day, after finding a key to their father’s office, they discover a VCR board game entitled Beyond the Gates. The tape is still in the VCR, which means it may be the last thing their father ever watched. The boys play the video and a woman’s face appears. Her name is Evelyn (Barbara Crampton, who also co-produced) and she asks if they’re willing to wager their souls. After a flash of light, the two discover that they’re lost hours of time.

Later that evening, Gordon’s girlfriend Margot (Brea Grant, Halloween II) joins the brothers for another game, which tells them that if they want to save their father, they must play the game and locate the four keys. Soon, the time 3:13 will wake each person up to a TV showing only static.

Inside the box is a receipt for an occult store run by a man named Elric He tells them that they must play the game once it starts. On their way out, John steals a dagger.

As they continue playing, actions in the game world impact real people, like their friend Hank being disemboweled by unseen forces. Even when they try to throw the game away, it soon returns. That’s because they only have two choices left: win the game or die. That said — no one has ever won before.

The game itself becomes a metaphor for the lives the brothers are living, stuck in old empotions and memories of the past. Whether or not they can use that knowledge and escape, well, you’ll have to watch the movie to discover that for yourself.

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