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The Darkening (1995)

A secluded, idyllic hideaway on the California coast hides a horrific secret. When a psychic investigator comes for a visit to this clifftop inn that appears so peaceful, he uncovers evidence of an alarming evil that resides there.


William Mesa




Cast overview:
Jeff Rector ... Scott Griffin
George Saunders ... Justin Reid (as George Phillip Saunders)
Rebecca Kyler Downs ... Rebecca Lacey
Red Montgomery Red Montgomery ... Katherine
Brian Carlton ... Richard Locke
Lyndis Durwin Lyndis Durwin ... Maggie Stewart
Tom Gumper Tom Gumper ... Mr. Gregory
Betty Bernt Betty Bernt ... Mrs. Gregory
Eric Abrahamson Eric Abrahamson ... Guest at Dinner Party (as Eric Abrahamson)
David Culp David Culp ... Guest at Dinner Party
Penny A. Mesa Penny A. Mesa ... Guest at Dinner Party (as Penny Mesa)
Cynthia Hatfield Cynthia Hatfield ... Guest at Dinner Party
Nick Davis Nick Davis ... Guest at Dinner Party
Christina Wegler Miles Christina Wegler Miles ... Elizabeth (as Christina Wegler)
Arthur Mesa Arthur Mesa ... Jamie
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A secluded, idyllic hideaway on the California coast hides a horrific secret in this occult chiller. Rebecca Lacey runs a clifftop inn that appears peaceful, but when psychic investigator Scott Griffin comes for a visit, he uncovers evidence of an alarming evil that resides there. Plagued by fearsome visions and psychic flashes, he is led to an ancient relic covered with esoteric writing. He soon recognizes it as a satanic tool thought to have been annihilated centuries ago; now Griffin must face its evil powers.

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Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for demonic images and some sensuality

Parents Guide:

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Written by John G. Jones
Performed by John G. Jones
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User Reviews

Mostly bland, convoluted and soap-operatic
29 April 2005 | by BrandtSponsellerSee all my reviews

Black Gate (aka The Darkening) is one of two thematically similar films I just watched back to back (the other being Devil's Harvest, 2003) that owe a strong debt to the classic "seaside haunted house films", ala Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940), Lewis Allen's The Uninvited (1944) and Joseph L. Mankiewicz' The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947). They both mix a lot of semi-Satanic mythology with their relatively more hyperactive, modernized styles. Unfortunately, although Black Gate has promise, and there are positive elements, this was the bad film of the two, ending up with a 6, the equivalent of a "D" letter grade for me.

Rebecca Lacey (Rebecca Kyler Downs--her character's name seems like it should be an homage to Hitchcock's Rebecca, but as that's her real name, too, it might just be a coincidence) owns a struggling Bed & Breakfast on the California coast. It's struggling because it's haunted. Rebecca can barely get guests to stay for a few hours. As the film opens, we see an elderly couple experiencing poltergeist-like events, including a face stretching out of the wall similar to the famous poster/DVD cover art of Peter Jackson's The Frighteners (1996). They run out, never to be seen again.

Rebecca then calls in Scott Griffin (Jeff Rector) and his photographer assistant Justin Reid (George Saunders). Griffin is a self-styled "ghost chaser" who has written a book entitled Unknown Realms: A Psychic's View of Hauntings. Rebecca hopes he can solve her problem. While staying at the Bed & Breakfast, exploring and experiencing some events more typical of a haunting, Griffin comes across some occult items, including a box that's a gateway to a hell dimension--the titular Black Gate.

The chief problem with Black Gate seems to be the script by John Jones and Victoria Parker. That was disappointing to me, because although this may have been Parker's first film, Jones had previously penned Amityville 4 (aka Amityville: The Evil Escapes, 1989), which I loved, and Amityville 6 (aka Amityville 1992: It's About Time), which I haven't seen for some time, but I remember liking.

Here, the backstory is far too convoluted, which saps it of impact, and there are far too many non-sequiturs, such as the ridiculous romance that blossoms between Justin, who is a committed skeptic, and a female ghost, Katherine (Red Montgomery). The story lacks a definite arc--it feels more like a set of arbitrary events. The script is short, and the dénouement is way too long, but the ending is also somewhat abrupt and inexplicable. Additionally, the "ghost buster" functions of Scott and Justin are laughably shallow and amateurish, especially in light of the activities of groups like The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS), as portrayed in the excellent Sci-Fi Channel show "Ghost Hunters" (2004). Admittedly, some of these problems may have been due to director William Mesa (who has an extensive, impressive background in visual effects with his company Flash Film Works), but they seem like flaws in the script to me.

But Black Gate also has a number of admirable elements. The basic gist of the story has potential. Especially by referencing films like Rebecca and The Amityville Horror (1979), the groundwork for an effective haunted house flick is already extant, and the occult background material could have been intriguing. The performances aren't bad considering what the cast had to work with. Downs and Lyndis Durwin, as Maggie Stewart, were actually good, although Durwin doesn't have a very big part. There are some nice external shots of the sea, and I loved the surrealistic artificiality of the establishing shots of the house--Mesa created nice composite shots of the house with computer generated skies and geographic features in the background--but those are few and far between. However, the interiors left much to be desired, with their plain, stark white walls reflecting the blandness of the events that transpire. The cinematography is decent to good, but the extremely low budget that Mesa apparently had to work with does not allow him to excel at his niche--special effects. The effects in the film tend to have all the panache and impact of the average ghost scene on a weekday afternoon soap opera, which unfortunately carries over to the atmosphere of the film at large.

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Release Date:

26 April 2005 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Black Gate See more »

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