“Both books were non-fiction, Malcolm insisted… claims they were confessions.”
I like a movie that reminds me of In the Mouth of Madness. I also like 80’s children’s horror flick The Gate and its sequel, and this was made by the same team (though we have evidence that the director has since fallen straight off the quality charts). And it’s from the writer of Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (one of the good ones). So I should have loved this – and I did, even if I can see why it’s not enjoying the same reputation as Lost Boys and The Monster Squad these days.
Jenny Wright (the top-billed woman in Young Guns 2, which is to say she’s eighteenth-billed overall) plays scatterbrained bookseller Virginia, who is recently obsessed with obscure horror writer Malcolm Brand. She reads his first book, which features a murderous troll creature locked in a crate, losing herself in the book as creatively shown by the film – the transitions between real and fantasy are well done. I was more surprised that she seems to have a happy, comfortable relationship with her cop boyfriend Richard (Clayton Rohner of The Relic, April Fool’s Day), unusual for a movie.
Caught them both staring into space:
Things heat up when she finds the author’s second book, and the murders within spring to life as she reads. Randall Cook, an effects animator who worked on The Gate, The Thing, Ghostbusters, Puppet Masters 2 and 4 and other movies I used to watch on cable all the time, and therefore a major influence on my childhood dreams and the continued existence of SHOCKtober, plays the mad doctor/book author wearing a beret, a cape, some serious facial disfigurement makeup, and a mask that would please Leatherface during the last 15 minutes.
Virginia has some friends, who are, naturally, doomed to sacrified before Randy’s desire for reconstructive surgery – more Eyes Without a Face than Texas Chainsaw Massacre. An actress in her theater group loses her scalp and pretty long hair (I hadn’t thought of Randy’s baldness as a gruesome disfigurement), her friend Lenny loses his nice Italian nose, her patient bookshop coworker Mona loses her lips (a killer’s gotta have luscious lips) and I’m not sure what he wants from the pianist across the street from her apartment. Virginia skips ahead in the book to see who the next victims will be, but the cops dismiss her as a crank. When the predictable showdown between herself (with a late-arriving Richard) and Randy arrives, she unleashes the beastie from the first book (which looks suspiciously like The Gate goblins on a larger scale) for a few great minutes of stop-motion which justify everything that has come before. Brand finally turns into book pages and flutters away. Mick Garris totally ripped this off for his TV episode Valerie on the Stairs, figuring that nobody would notice – gotcha, Mick.
See also: Shadowplay