01st Dec2017

‘The Gatehouse’ VOD Review

by Nik Holman

Stars: Scarlett Rayner, Simeon Willis, Linal Haft, Paul Freeman, Melissa Knatchbull | Written and Directed by Martin Gooch

Gatehouse-poster

Jack, a single father (Simeon Willis) looking to get way from the ghost of his dead wife, literally and figuratively, moves into a secluded gatehouse on the edge of a forest to work on a novel and maintain a relationship with his daughter. His daughter, 10-year-old Eternity, loves digging for treasure in the forest behind her house. In a coincidental turn of fate, Jack agrees to undertake a writing project about the ‘legend of the black flowers’ at the same time that Eternity discovers a mysterious object in the woods, and the forest wants it back.

The Gatehouse is a very simple premise brought down by a lack of restraint. Tropes abound. Take a drink every time you see a grieving single parent, mischievous child, creepy neighbor, drunken party girls, ghost, witches… you will pass out before the first scare. In many scenes I was left to wonder if the film was ever meant to be scary in the first place. As a horror movie, it’s merely a loosely connected string of tropes that have been done to death in numerous other movies. The lack of tension just leaves good ideas feeling flat.

Early on, we’re introduced to a creepy, shotgun-wielding neighbor. He’s threatening, he’s interesting, but ultimately, his only purpose is to shoot at things until he stops. Call me uppity, but I like a little more meat on my characters’ bones. The forest monster/spirit isn’t frightening at all, conjuring images of The Knights Who Say “Ni”. And I literally laughed out loud at the death of Eternity’s mother. As a viewer, I shouldn’t be put in the position to feel like a bad person because I laughed at the death of a little girls mom.

While the plot and pacing is wanting, I enjoyed the visual look of The Gatehouse. The subtle purple lighting in the backgrounds gives off an old-school British horror vibe. I felt as if I were watching a 70’s Hammer movie. The titular gatehouse and the surrounding forest are both beautifully shot.

Scarlett Rayner is a delight as 10-year-old Eternity. Her childish wonder combined with her unrelenting moxie, makes for a fun protagonist/lovable troublemaker. I saw a lot of my daughter in her, equally bratty and sweet. And I couldn’t help but feel for the poor kid after the recent death of her mother and now dealing with her fathers’ rapid decent into madness.

Despite its constantly shifting tones, the film does offer some solid performances and frightening scenes. If you like jump-scares and throwback British horror, watching The Gatehouse is an easy recommendation.

The Gatehouse comes to VOD, in the US, on December 5th; courtesy of Uncork’d Entertainment.

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