Interview with Jackson Stewart (Director of Beyond The Gates)

| April 6, 2017

For many horror fans, the 80’s are one of the great high points in horror cinema. The mere mention of films like The Howling, Scanners, My Bloody Valentine, Hell Night, April Fool’s Day and many others brings a wide smile to a variety of genre fans. Horror fans are always searching for something new, and a new film with a real 80’s feel offers the potential promise of being both fresh and retro in an exciting way.

Beyond The Gates, a new film directed by Jackson Stewart, starring the iconic Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, From Beyond), Brea Grant and Chase Williamson (John  Dies at the End), is a loving tribute to 80’s horror, VHS movies, and horror video games… a triple threat of fun. Chase Williamson is particularly good in the film and brings a lot of charm and charisma to the proceedings.

The story revolves around two estranged brothers who unite in a search for their missing father, who’s seems to have vanished in a very curious manner. As the brothers search on, they come to realize their only chance to find the head of the family may come via a rather deranged game. We spoke to first time feature director, Jackson Stewart, about the exciting prospect of bringing this classic 80’s style film to life and onto our screens.

Q.) Beyond the Gates has an 80’s feel to it, was that your intention, and did you take any specific steps to guide the film in that direction?

A.) 100%.  We wanted the movie to be rooted in the visual constraints of films like The Gate, Poltergeist and Phantasm (even though that one is 1970s), while telling a new story and not rehashing a bunch of set pieces we’ve seen a million times.  Every one of my department heads knew the score and did a terrific job. I give them a lot of credit toward the final product.

 

Q.) What were some of the biggest lessons you learned from making the film?

A.) There’s too many to list.  Making a movie is like running a marathon and nothing will match it until you’ve really gone through it.  My biggest lesson is always trust your gut feeling; you hear a lot of ideas on set and some people can be very convincing but all my regrets came from not trusting myself in a handful of scenes.

 

Q.) The film is centered around 80’s VHS horror video games, did you do a lot of research on these games and were there any in particular that were your favorites?

A.) We did.  I played all the Nightmare games — the first one is still the best.  RoboCop is another weird one that most people don’t know about.  Wayne’s World, Star Trek — there’s a ton.

 

Q.) How important was humor to you for this project and did you map out any kind of a laughs to scares scenario for the film?

A.) I wanted there to be light, relatable moments throughout the movie but there was never any kind of formula for something like, “we have this many scares, so we need this many funny lines”.  To me, that would probably start to feel stale and formulaic but maybe other people do that.  Who knows?

 

Q.) How long was pre-production for the film and what did that entail?

A.) I started pre-production about 9 months before we began shooting.  Josh and Sierra Russell and I began planning out the exploding heads, discussing ghoul designs and other fun stuff around this period along with some other effects we never found a place for.  Brian Sowell, my DP, was involved around then too and we started figuring out the look, looking at influences, etc.  If you don’t have a huge budget, planning is everything.

 

Q.) The poster for Beyond the Gates has a very classic 80’s feel to it… what was your process on creating the art/promotion for the film and how has the art helped the film to date?

A.) I really wanted to make a poster in the vein of the great Italian artists like Enzo Sciotti.  Specifically, the poster for Paganini Horror.  I had this image of a god-like Barbara Crampton looking down on our heroes as they went through the Gates and and crossed into this other worldly dimension that I couldn’t get out of my head.  I enlisted Brendan Wiuff (who designed the board game) to hand paint Barbara, Brea, Chase and Graham and come up with the overall design. Sadist Art Designs did the rest and really brought a hell of a lot to it.  It was a fun collaboration between those two and I’d love to utilize them both in the same way on the next movie.  It was doubly vindicating to see how many best posters of 2016 lists we landed on.

 

Q.) What did you want to bring to this film as a director? What are you hoping people will get from the piece?

A.) The main thing I wanted to bring to it was heart, authenticity and a level of genuine emotion I feel like a lot of 80s throwbacks miss.  People tend to think of their favorite films of that era as nothing but a string of cool set pieces and most of them are aiming to be strong films with some interesting thematic idea at the core of them.  That was my main aim and I am thrilled that anyone connects with it.  We landed on a few best horror movies of 2016 lists which blows my mind and really makes me happy.  Above all, I didn’t want to treat this movie like a joke.

Beyond the Gates arrives on DVD and Blu-Ray from Scream Factory on May 2nd, 2017.

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