There's Gooks Out Tonight: HOLLOW GATE (1988) Review

Well, here it is. My first (yes, my very first) review up on the site. For my first review, I decided to go with a hot slice of late-eighties SOV (shot-on-video) "goodness." A while back, I saw a movie called Death by Dialogue (1988) released by City Lights Home Entertainment. The film was SOV, but it wasn't your traditional SOV; it looked fancier than something like Video Violence (1987), but it certainly wasn't shot on film. Then I noticed another movie called Hollow Gate was released by the same company and it looked the same. Now, Death by Dialogue (what a horrible name for a movie) was just barely saved from my trash can because of a few moments of hilarious entertainment, and I was worried Hollow Gate wouldn't be so lucky. Well, lock your doors and bolt your windows because the gooks are out tonight as we take a trip to...

HOLLOW GATE (1988) Review

When Mark Walters was very young, his stepfather nearly drowned him in the bobbing-for-apples bucket at a party on Halloween night. Ten years later, Mark kills two teenagers who were making fun of him with a pair of flaming panties placed conveniently in their gas tank. Two years after that, he nearly kills a girl when she refuses to go out with him. Now, he is forced to live with his sweet, wealthy grandmother at her estate, Hollow Gate. However, when Halloween rolls around, Mark kills her and proceeds to order a dozen costumes from the costume shop.

Meanwhile, four teenagers are on their way to a big Halloween rock concert stop at a costume shop just to look around. One of the girl's just HAS to have a purple wig, and since it would drain them of the money they need to get into the concert, the shop owner makes a deal with them that if they deliver the costumes up to Hollow Gate, they can have the wig for free. So they do, but once they arrive, they find themselves trapped inside the estate by an electrified fence! Soon, Mark begins to don each of the costumes they delivered and take on the personality each costume portrays and picks the teens off one by one. Who will survive the night of bloody terror at Hollow Gate?


Truth be told, Hollow Gate is a pretty bad movie. The acting is never going to win any awards, the plot is filled with clichés we've all seen dozens of times before, and it's lacking suspense, gore, and nudity, three trademarks of a slasher movie. But despite that, I really did like this movie. I found it to be quite enjoyable in a cheesy sort of way. Like I said, the acting is bad, but at least you can tell they're actually trying. I loved Addison Randall's uber-hammy performance as Mark, as well as Richard Dry's performance as Allen, whose idea of portraying pure terror is to strain every vein in his neck like he's constipated (leading to hilarious facial expressions like the one below).

I feel the film's strongest point of entertainment is with Mark's changing personalities with the costumes. First he's a 'Nam vet (uttering the classic line, "There's gooks out tonight!"), then he's a cowboy, then a jockey, then a doctor. Sure, we've seen the "costume-switching" gimmick before in classic stuff like Terror Train and Bloody Movie, but I loved it here because of Randall's over-the-top performances everytime he switches costumes.

Despite a low body count and almost no gore to speak of, Hollow Gate also has some fairly impressive and certainly creative deaths. Now, given the low body count, I'm not going to spoil ALL the deaths, but just two of them that I feel stood out. The first one is a death via combine (that thing that farmer's drive that has like four lawn mowers attached to it). While that one should have been bloodier, I still appreciated the use of a combine as a weapon of death. The other one was the cutest death I have ever seen: one guy getting mauled by two starving golden retrievers! The dogs were adorable, so having these cute dogs tear apart somebody was hilarious!

However, I do have some complaints. For one, I HATED the final girl. She was responsible in every way for her friends getting killed off one by one, and she was the girl that made it out alive. She was the one that absolutely NEEDED that purple wig, despite her boyfriend telling her it was too expensive. When the other girl suggests the most sensible plan of action for going into the tool shed (all going together), SHE was the one who immediately yelled, "NO!" Chalk her down as one of the most annoying characters EVER!

My other problem is that at times, Hollow Gate can REALLY drag. There's one scene where we get to watch two cops recount Mark's entire back story for about three minutes. We also follow the teens for a while as they eat lunch, talk about random crap in their van, and while we do get the sense that these are friends (unlike most movies nowadays where they're all complete jerks to one another for no clear reason), I could have done without it. The opening also seemed a bit too long for its own good, but that wasn't too bad. We also get to see two teens (who aren't even important to the story) make out on a picnic blanket, which was totally worthless.

All in all, I had fun with Hollow Gate. I had read reviews before hand saying how tame it was, so I didn't go in expecting a gore-fest, and with those expectations, I liked it. I would definitely clasify it under comedy because I was laughing a LOT more than I was being scared. Most slasher fans are going to hate this because of the lack of the subgenre staples (oodles of gore, a large body count, and bodacious breasts), but I thought it was fun in other ways, like the over-the-top killer, inventive deaths (the golden retrievers, man), and some funny performances (just eat a laxative, Al). This has, unsurprisingly, never been released to DVD, but if I'm not mistaken, Troma does own the rights (they released Death by Dialogue on DVD a while ago). However, business for them has been bad, so don't hold your breath for Hollow Gate getting the Blu-Ray treatment. Just try and hunt down a VHS.

The Verdict: With expectations set at a reasonable level, Hollow Gate is sure to entertain with its so-bad-it's-good charms.

Score: 6/10



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