One of my most beloved 80’s horror movies, possibly because it’s never been very popular, nor has it been spoiled by sequels (part 2 wasn’t so bad) or remakes (though Bill S. Preston, Esq. has his eyes on one). I watched it again and again on TV, and since it’s not rated R, I probably didn’t miss much. Thanks much to the Plaza and Splatter Cinema, I have now seen it in an actual cinema on actual film. It’s kind of a kids movie, and I still take issue with a giant earth-conquering demon from hell being defeated by a kid with a model rocket, but otherwise perfectly enjoyable.
I’d forgotten some details: a couple of valuable geodes pulled from the hole early on, friend Terry’s dead-mother issues and his collection of moths in a jar. Also didn’t realize how kids’ toys are woven into the movie. There’s the rocket of course – I’d misremembered the devil-thwarting “pure love and light” being a marketing slogan on the rocket’s box, but the shabby, dollar-bin-design box just has a rainbow on it. I guess it’s Dorff’s belief in the rocket as a symbol of love/light that wins out, like the kid in Stephen King’s It spraying monsters with his inhaler while shouting “this is acid!” More child’s play: the hole is initially opened far enough to let those awesome ankle-biting micro-demons out when the kids read words formed by the geode on a toy writing tablet, evil demon-Terry is stabbed with a barbie doll, and the secret of demon banishment is discovered by playing a record backwards. That one is especially fun in a subversive way – parents used to worry that kids would pick up secret satanic messages from metal albums, and this one teaches them how to fight evil, not how to summon it.
Director Tibor, as has been discussed here already, made the pretty cool I, Madman, then Gate II, and went slowly downhill towards the truly stinky Christian Slater movie Lies & Illusions. Writer Michael Nankin is directing respectable TV shows (and CSI) these days. Dorff’s big sister Christa Denton never made it out of the eighties, acting-wise (although one of her slumber-party friends later starred in Candyman 2), and tragically, neither did Louis Tripp, who played Terry, except for a rumored cameo in a late-90’s Edward Furlong comedy.