This title was a difficult one for me to get my head around, certainly not the plot, which is a gentle-natured dark fairy-tale surrounding a forest spirit and something called the ‘Dark Flowers’, but more so just who the film was targeted at.
The protagonists, a self-depreciating writer and his smart mouth ‘over confident’ ten-year-old daughter, find themselves unwitting subjects of an ancient forest curse. Whilst there are several other subplots which cater to the characters back stories, the main story follows the writer and his latest project, a factual piece of research on the occult and the location of something the film refers to as ‘Black Flower runestone’. As the writer uncovers more of the mystery, the threat – a weird antlered demon in the woods – gets closer to home.
The whole film is played like a cross between a family drama, and a kid’s adventure. Indeed, the whole piece seems to cater for a young audience with lines like ‘monsters like the smell of burps’ and ‘he was a good snog’ and my favourite, ‘you going to stand there like a big pile of pooh?’ substantiating my hypothesis. As such, when myself, a mid-30s dad of two and my similarly aged colleague sat down for a well-deserved movie night, the whole affair came across a little daft.
Its not that ‘The Gatehouse’ isn’t somewhat charming, with its tongue in cheek one liners, authentic British countryside landscapes and a traditional storytelling, its just that, well perhaps it’s a little too ‘charming’. Imagine if Enid Blyton had penned The Evil Dead and you might get something close to what Martin Gooch has offered us here.
The acting is passible, with the characters being the strongest part of the film. When they are not delivering cheesy speeches, or having to endure listening to the little girl’s brattish rants, their personas fit in with the Rural fantasy adventure theme, especially towards the end when the plot begins to draw a conclusion. Whether or not you invested in the films direction, you will be routing for them to some extent – after all, nice people don’t deserve nasty things happening to them no matter how limited a budget those nasty things are in the costume department.
The films threat is possibly the its biggest barrier. There isn’t one there for too much of the film. Rather than focussing on making the audience feel scared, or even slightly creeped out, it seems to want to make you feel sad, sad for the characters, sad for poor ten-year-old Destiny who not only lost her mother, but now has Bambi’s humanoid uncle to contend with. ‘The Gatehouse’ is in no way a horror movie, a gothic tinged Drama at best.
Overall, if you have kids aged 13 or 14, and they like fairy-tales, ‘The Gatehouse’ might provide an evening’s worth of fun for them. Please check the rating on the film though, there is some mild threat. Do not, however, watch on a date night - the squeaky voiced juvenile insults of a 10-year-old are likely to serve as an audio-visual contraceptive.