What’s Out on Blu-ray 5/16/2017: Beyond the Gates, Willard, Ben

Adam RuhlBlu-Ray Review, Horror, MoviesLeave a Comment

Beyond the Gates

Gordon (Graham Skipper) returns to his hometown to help his estranged brother John (Chase Williamson) pack up their father’s VHS video store after he goes missing and is presumed dead. While going through his office, the two men find that their dad had been playing an old VHS board game called Beyond the Gates. They watch the tape and unwittingly start the game anew when video hostess Evelyn (Barbara Crampton) instructs them to open the board and makes it clear they have no other option but to play. They find themselves trapped in a Video Nasty version of Jumanji where each roll of the dice can bring real world consequences and death.

The word of mouth I got on this film before seeing it was not overly kind and it does fall a bit into the trap of excessive nostalgia, but this is actually a pretty effective horror film. The movie is definitely a slow burn, too slow for my taste and way too slow for its brief 82 minute run time. Once we get to the game, things pick up nicely but over half the movie is devoted to set up without a lot of real tension building. However, in the end the payoff is worth it, with plenty of surprisingly gory scenes and a top notch cast that can provide enough interest in the characters to sit through the first 35 minutes. Jackson Stewart shows considerable talent for a first time feature director and I look forward to seeing his future films.

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary Director Jackson Stewart, Barbara Crampton, and others
  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Retro Commercial
  • Moderated Q&A
  • Sex Boss Short Film

 

Willard

Willard (Bruce Davison) is a hapless loser who is bad at his job and lives with his mother in a decrepit house. The house is slowly being overrun with rats but instead of killing them like his mother orders he befriends and trains them. Foremost among his new pets are the intelligent Socrates and the massive black rat named Ben. Soon after, Willard’s mother passes away and the rats become an avenging army against the boss that ruined his life.

It’s wonderful to have Willard on Blu-ray at last and it looks magnificent in its new scan. Willard was one of those films that I first saw on VHS and even then the VHS copy had to be twenty years old. The quality upshift is drastic to the point that I felt like I was watching the film for the first time and it was every bit as spectacular. No original cover art on the reverse of the sleeve this time but there is an excellent interview with Bruce Davison that is worth checking out.

Special Features:

  • NEW 4K scan of the original camera negative
  • NEW audio commentary with actor Bruce Davison
  • NEW interview with actor Bruce Davison
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spot
  • Radio Spots
  • Still Gallery

 

Ben

The mere title of this film is something of a spoiler for the original (if that wasn’t enough they start the movie with showing the climax of the previous film). Yes Ben, the leader of the rats, survives the original film and this time befriends a boy named Danny. It isn’t long before anyone who’s a treat to young Danny or the rodent army soon finds themselves rat food.

Note the ‘NEW HD transfer of best surviving archive print’. I tried to find more information on what exactly happened to the original negative but turned up short. The bad news is it shows; blacks are crushed, details are soft, there’s some motion blur when people move too fast, and there’s plenty of scratches and inherent film defects to be seen. The good news is it’s still the best Ben has ever looked on video, it is still completely watchable, and if this is a salvage job I’ll gladly take this over nothing (this print transfer, I think, is superior to the release print transfer SF tried to do for Dog Soldiers, which was a much more recent release).

Special Features:

  • NEW HD transfer of the best surviving archive print
  • NEW audio commentary with actor Lee Montgomery
  • NEW interview with actor Lee Montgomery
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spots
  • BEN/WILLARD Double Feature Trailer and TV spot
  • Radio Spot
  • Still Gallery
Adam Ruhl is a writer and life long Cinephile. He is the Executive
Cinema Editor of Pop Culture Beast’s Austin branch; covering festivals,
conventions, and new releases. When not filing reports, Adam can be
found stalking Alamo Drafthouse Programmers for leads on upcoming
DrafthouseFilms titles. Adam once blocked Harry Knowles entrance to a
theater until he was given extra tickets to a Roman Polanski movie.
Adam RuhlWhat’s Out on Blu-ray 5/16/2017: Beyond the Gates, Willard, Ben