Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames (1986)

You can’t lie to us.

There’s no breaking of the Ninth Commandment, allowed. Not this time.

We know you’ve never seen or heard of this beautiful collision of a Christploitation flick and an ’80s SOV’er for the most epic, greatest SOV in the horror realms committed to video tape. And yes, video store owners, who had no friggin’ idea of what was distributed to them (see the great Spine shelving snafu), gandered at the words of “Heaven’s Gates” and “Hell’s Flames” and, instead of placing the tape in the “Family/Children’s” section (and this is not child appropriate in the least) where it belonged, they tossed it on the horror section shelves.

And there it was for me to score: in the horror section of the video store, a store sandwiched between a Falafel joint and an accident-attorney office. Yes, those hour-long “Christian Scare” documentaries you would see during the sleepless overnights and lazy weekends as you channel surfed past TBN – The Trinity Broadcasting Network* in the ’80s ended up on VHS for distribution on your home video shelves.

Yes, I was a truly blessed, metal-head and VHS lovin’ youth that day of yore . . . courtesy of Paul and Jan Crouch.

So . . . this 50-minute Canuck Christploiter made in St. Catharine’s, Ontario by Reality Outreach Ministries portrays people of various ages and walks of life who die in a variety of unexpected ways (e.g., drug abuse, the bottle, car accidents, muggings-gone-bad, steel girders falling). The way they lived on Earth determines where they will spend eternity: Heaven or Hell.

Oh, and a warning: this is a stage play produced by the ministry and committed to tape.


Thanks, Paul Z, at VHS Collector for the clear image.

Dude . . . when this play’s depiction of Heaven kicks in, it is right out the Estus Pirkle playbook — but HGHF has nothing on The Believer’s Heaven and beats it by a few clouds. Then, when Hell kicks in — complete with a bastardized Gene Simmons-meets-King Diamond-cackling Satan — it holds no candle to Jose Majica Marins’s Coffin Joe depictions of Hell in This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse. Oh, ye reader, forget about Estus Pirkle’s multi-colored Rubic’s Cube face-painted Satan in Ron Ormond’s The Burning Hell, for Reality Outreach Ministries has just blessed you with the Satan you always wanted in your nightmares.

Oh, yeah. The rest of the plot.

Well, it’s a bunch of vignettes, as “actors” do “scenes” that warn, you, on the various horrors awaiting those who do not accept Jesus Christ. For example: We have a young couple on a nice, romantic evening in the park (two folding chairs on stage, natch). She speaks about “her psychic said romance is in the air” as her Christian boyfriend warns her on the dangers of “deceptive physics.” Then, a mugger shows up, steals her purse, and shoots both. Dead.

For reals. I am not making this up.

Now, we’re at the “Pearly Gates” and the boyfriend gets in. The girlfriend says, “Wait, why am I here? I’m supposed to be reincarnated!”

Cue King Diamond.

The King and two of his minions grab Blondie and drag her into the red-cellophane fires. Meanwhile, the best part, is the boyfriend pulls the ol’ I-told-you-so gag — with a glean in his eye. Why? Because Christians get off on the ol’ I-told-you-so-and-seeing-you-go-to-Hell gag.

Next vignette.

Two construction worker-buds are on top of a high building (again, folding chairs on the stage). The saved worker witnesses to his troubled work-bro and turns him to Christ. Suddenly . . . a girder (actors, awfully, selling the drama) falls. Both die. Both go to Heaven. But, since the one guy just got saved . . . there’s a paperwork snafu, since there wasn’t time to write his name down in the Book of Life. But don’t worry. Jesus shows up to set the Angel in charge of the book, straight.

For reals. I am not making this up.

Okay, just one more. . . .

A little girl begs her busy, career-driven and charity-committed mom to go to church. “Next, week, Sweetie,” mom brushes her off. Suddenly . . . a car (again, actors — awfully — selling the drama), hits them. Mom and daughter are dead.

Then, mom gets the shock of her life: being a good parent, a loyal wife, and doing good deeds, alone, won’t get her into Heaven. But since the daughter went to church, she goes to Heaven. So, to Hell mom goes. Why? Because working with the homeless and the handicap wasn’t good enough for God — and you turned your back on His son. Yes, King Diamond shows up and takes away mom — to the girl’s screams and cries, begging Jesus to save her mom. Seconds later, Jesus shows up and touches the girl. All is well. The girl skips up the silver and gold staircase.

For reals. I am not making this up. It’s not a fever dream. It’s real.

And you thought Estus Pirkle’s sharpened bamboo into the ear canals of children was sick. We told you this tops a Pirkle joint six days a week and twice on Sundays. It’s pure insanity — stage production, be damned — so how can you not want to watch this? Okay, so it’s not as bonkers as Pastor Kenneth Okonkwo’s two-part, papier-mâché production, 666: Beware, the End is at Hand, but what zero-budget soul-saving epic, is?

I want the boy! Throw him to the pits of Hell!
“Forget about your mommy, little girl. She’s mine, now! Ooh, it’s cold gin time again!”
“To Hell with him! Bring the black box to the altar!”
“Like father, like son! For my real name is Kim Bendix Petersen!”

Anyway, it goes on and on and on like this for a glorious 50-minutes, well, near 75-minutes, since the festivities are front and backended with a Pastor’s service. But name your sin: Abortion. Drugs. Sex. Not going to church. Reincarnation. Fortune tellers. The dangers of every and any sins, are depicted, here. Lovers and families are torn apart. People hug Jesus and go to Heaven without a tear or care of their loved one being dragged to Hell.

Yes. Jesus greets you, personally, each and everyone, with a hug . . . as you walk through a literal door, aka gate, under the Angel that’s perched on top of a golden pedestal, on top of the silver and gold staircase — you know, the Angel who makes sure you’re in the Book of Life, sans any paperwork snafus where you died two-second later, after just “being saved” by a buddy.

Now, hear me out for a second: Wouldn’t it be the “Christian thing” to do, that, when your loved one is about to be dragged to Hell by faux-Gene Simmons, that your “Christian Heart” would make the ultimate sacrifice and take your loved one’s place, so they can enter Heaven?

Oops. Sorry for allowing logic into the plot. Never pick at the plot holes. Especially not in Christian Cinema.

Look, it’s a fun and frolicking “SOV Week” at B&S About Movies, so we can poke (sorry) a little fun, here. However, honestly, for a stage play, the production values are pretty decent. The stage is one, single dressing. A simple lighting change is all it takes to transform the silver and gold of Heaven into the red and orange fires of Hell. Sure, it’s not an Oscars-level production, but still, for a church auditorium-cum-chapel gig, it leaves you impressed. Yeah, credit where credit is do: the stage manager, or audio visuals manager for Reality Outreach Ministries, really makes this all work, brilliantly. I wonder if he ever did a film, proper? I’d rent that movie.

However, what is not impressing, are the “actors,” who we assume are volunteering for the cause. The way they jump around, screaming and “rejoicing” on stage with their “I’m in Heaven. Woooo! This is awesome. Angel, is my name in the Book of Life? Yes, I’m in. I’m going to Heaven!” would be a flailing, arms-akimbo thespian tragedy if it wasn’t so gosh darned funny.

Oh, hell yeah, pardon the vernacular, it’s on You Tube and You Tube.

The caveat: The uploads are of two, different productions of the same play. In my opinion, the first version (with faux-King Diamond) — the one I watched on tape all those years ago, is the stronger production of the two. The second version (with Gene Simmons; the second still, above) — which I didn’t know existed until this review — runs a bit longer at 90 minutes, due to it having more Pastor preaching than the first.

Both are still epic. Watch ’em both! Hell, yeah! Also watch this. . . .

Another direct-to-video release from the ’80s “Christian Scare” era.

* We also discuss the “Christian Scare” era within our review of the Paul and Jan Crouch-produced Six: The Mark Unleashed and its metal music-is-evil component with the fictional film, Raging Angels.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.