Every so often, I shall take on topic in the horror genre, and this marks the first in that adventure.
Often horror films name the occult theme and those recently in the found footage subgenre, the term ‘Gateway to hell” surfaces, and since the month of November recently passed, why not take on this highly used phrase in horror and explore the numerous films that we have passionately enjoyed. It was once thought in the era when humankind didn’t know about the changes to the planet, anytime the volcanoes erupted people thought it was hell unleashing the demons, it even extended to when a chasm was created in the land from an earthquake once, is God upset, of course not most people now know it is the tectonic plates constantly shifting which create these horrific acts. Ancient civilizations of Greek and Roman told of the entryways and portals to the underworld, down into the fiery depths into the abyss, this extended into the medieval ages with folklore extending to Sicily, namely the volcanic Mount Etna, therefore one needs to review the past and then move it the present, and how it all impacts the cinema.
First the phrase in society, often many places describe this location, some of course likely for a tourism intrigue, these places the continual fire ranging under Centralia, Pennsylvania, a coal mine blaze started in 1962 and likely to burn for at least another 250 years, however I discount this a gateway, it’s not in any manner. One should understand the numerous jokes concerning New Jersey, is Hell, in Clifton, actually given “Gates of Hell” name, however itself highly based more on urban legends than anything else. Normally the term Gateway to Hell, refers to something lasting for 100s of years, even a natural formation, then something man-made, however, looking into this place, a semi-abandoned storm drain in the Passaic County, which contains odd objects and strange locked rooms. It includes a cursed chamber, leading into maze system descending further downward leading closer to the Devil. Next up for the traveler another man-made “Door to Hell” in Derweze, Turkmenistan, a place where geologists thought to control methane gasses by setting the area afire in 1971 however it creates an epic 100-yard pit of smoldering coals and flames constantly trying to jump out of the glowing red hole, making it appear as a hungry mouth of hell. Of course one place that always gets the gateways to Hell reference, castles namely both Houska Castle, located in Czech Republic and Vlad the Impaler (however most dismissed the second only because of its connection the Dracula stories and that Vlad lived there a short time, it exists more a tourist trap than trap than a door to Hell. The Houska, tells of a legend in 13th century built over a bottomless pit, strangely the castle contains no human conveniences rather demons to inhabit. Even today the structure, renovated for the modern owners play with the history by turning the palace into a spooky tourism venture. Hence, when seeking a gateway to hell, one might stumble upon it simply by conjuring the evil forces into themselves, because finding the location might prove harder than most could ever be conceived namely Hellam Township near York, PA a modern urban legend which it’s the Seven Gates of Hell (sounds like a great horror film title). Huh? Although, the only media contain the that titling comes from the Black-Speed Metal band Venom.
The reference of hell is noted a place of fire, brimstone, the reasons simply people know what fire is, how it hurts, from burning the tongue on a hot drink and the mind works creates image to identity. Note though, in the spiritual world the body remains on the earthly plane and the soul transcends, does a soul burn?
Let’s really discuss the horror films which use the phrasing into their plots, while some may try to use Tom Costabile’s Voodoo (2017) as doorway to hell in the movie, it’s not, yes it gives references to Hell, it’s done through other means hence the title, not that they sought the passageway themselves. Therefore, before I run aimlessly into the horror genre, I placed these in alphabetical order, I chose only 7 films one for each gateway.
Event Horizon (1997)
A sci-fi horror film from director Paul W.S. Anderson Set in 2047, it follows a crew of astronauts sent on a rescue mission after a missing spaceship, the Event Horizon, suddenly reappears after a strange mission near Neptune. Once on-board, the crew sees bloodshed everywhere shocking the vessel gravity drive automatically activates, Justin is pulled into a portal. The team begins to experience hallucinations corresponding to their fears and regrets. The video log ends with a shot of the Event Horizon’s captain, who has apparently gouged out his own eyes, holding them up to the camera and saying in Latin, “libera te tutemet ex inferis” (“save yourself from hell”). The team leaders realize that the ship’s gravity drive opened a gateway into Hell itself.
Amityville 3D (1983)
Isn’t the lamest one in the series, and yet no awards here either, especially with the wretched 3D (though not as bad Jaws 3D) anyway body count suggestive as much lower however, not necessary, as during the chaotic ending unsure how many in the house to start with, before damnation occurs. However, before all of this you have a journalist, John Baxter (Tony Roberts) debunking spiritualism, and the history surrounding the Amityville house, before they find the doorway (a bottomless hole in basement floor) to hell. Overlooking for a moment that neither parts 1 or 2 located this problem, it still works for campy fun, demonic activity, and ghostly dead teenager walking the halls, (doesn’t sound that effective – eerie). The Demon’s arrival, with soul paranormal guru calling it out to bring back the soul of their lost daughter very silly, but at least the creature breathes fire, and does some crafty face melting.
The Sentinel (1977)
An odd little horror film from the ‘70s that you might have never even heard about, even though it boasts the likes of people like Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Walken, and Beverly D’Angelo. It even has one of the more original plots, as its based on the book of the same title published in 1974 by author Jeffrey Konvitz when a model Alison (Cristina Raines) moves into a unique and historic brownstone apartment, owned by excommunicated Catholic priests and a gateway to Hell. The Sentinel actually goes to some pretty bizarre places, with a series of perversions, murders, suicides and others which truly weren’t but the moralistic Christians deemed them immoral, such as lesbianism. The owners and building both seek a new gatekeeper to hold the demons, sinners, and Hell itself in behind the gates.
Next one, cannot overlook the Gates of Hell Trilogy from horror genius and lunatic Lucio Fulci, these movies likely in any horror fan collection.
City of the Living Dead (1980)
The first installment in the series, known as in the United States as The Gates of Hell starts as a séance held in the apartment of medium Theresa (Adelaide Aste), that Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) experiences traumatic visions Father Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine), committing suicide in a church cemetery which mysteriously opens a gateway to hell allowing the dead to rise and devour the living.
The Beyond (1981)
Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond however, is consider the best of the series, and the second installment fits perfectly into our theme of the article. In the early portion of the movie (noting I’m removing some information) a murder occurs and within a hotel and a gateway unlocks opening one of the Seven Doors of Death, which allows the Hell’s dead to emerge into our world, fast forward decades later remodeling activity occurs unlocking the gate once more things go dreadfully bad and zombies walk among us, causing immense gore and death. Purely to note, the final installment The House by the Cemetery (1981), although some try including Zombie (1979) into the mix, as a pre-cursory to City, however that spun its own franchise of movies, no actual connection to the gateway to hell, as disease caused the dead to rise and feed on the living. Therefore, this movie set in a New England home where a series of murders occur, and secrets lay restless in the walls and basement. While reworking the Frankenstein tale, it centers more of the misdeeds of mankind, trying to dabble in the area of God, life and death, thereby practicing the macabre arts of Hell
Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
Every horror fan, knows of Clive Barker’s classic Hellraiser movie, which introduce the cenobites, it’s the fans that gave the lead one, Pinhead his name, and of course the classic puzzle box, all of it echoes with gothic and even fetish fans, extending to the humanistic standpoint of God, Devil, Hell, and religion. However, really part 2 is so much more involved and has a deeper meaning of Hell, by venturing into the endless labyrinth of cells of punishment. It all shows that hell can open anywhere, that solid wall may not be so solid, as the doors to hell open anytime, and then the characters with skin parading in heavenly white backgrounds and of course devious transformation of Dr. Channard. Hellraiser II continues Kirsty’s story, and the showing that a bloody mattress serves as another way to hell and allows the dead to cross into other world once more just like the follow-ups to Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street respect their original concepts.
The Ninth Gate (1999)
This mystery, thriller film was directed, produced, and co-written by Roman Polanski about Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) a New York City rare book dealer, making his living conning people into selling him valuable antique books for a low price, and then re-selling them to private collectors. A wealthy book collector Boris Balkan (Frank Langella), recently acquired a copy of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows by 17th-century author Aristide Torchia, one of only three extant copies. The author hid a secret passage to hell itself and all knowledge that which the Devil and Hell possess.
I suppose everyone wonders if they found a so-called doorway would they enter it or fear greatly? I once asked my father, as a teen did he ever kill anyone in the WWII, he said, “I dearly hope I didn’t, but as a U.S. Marine, I trained not to miss, in battles the hatred wins out, unlocking a hell within… You don’t have endless lives or rounds, like a damn video games, what you have is you get… In war you see enough nightmares to last a lifetime, war brings the hellish images to life, often enough hell and demons come within oneself…” Hence, as for myself, I believe anywhere a doorway or gate could exist, however it is often enough found within oneself.