Tuesday, December 05, 2017

The Gatehouse: The Perils of Ghostwriting

Where’s David Ritz when you need him? Jack Winter had a bad feeling about the ghostwriting gig his agent offered him, but he took it anyway, because he is short on money and responsibility. As he digs deeper into the occult legends of the English countryside, he will endanger his bratty daughter Eternity. Instead of a Green Man, it is a Horned Man who haunts the woods and the Winter family in Martin Gooch’s The Gatehouse (trailer here), which releases today on VOD.

Ever since the accidental drowning death of his wife Eloise, Jack Winter has been struggling with depression. He also has a hard time paying the bills and getting Eternity to school on time. In a misguided effort to help, Eternity has become obsessed with digging for buried treasure. It sounds harmless enough, until Winter starts researching the so-called “black flowers,” for the book he agrees to finish. Evelyn Eldritch (a Lovecraftian name if ever there was one) was obsessed with the mythical hidden talismans that supposedly protect the forest from human interlopers and went mad as a hatter before he could finish the third book in his trilogy.

It seems the Horned Man, the forest’s sinister guardian, is out to recover the missing black flowers and he will suck the life out of any mere mortal that gets in his way. Unfortunately, good old Jack is a bit slow on the up-take, even with the spirit of his late wife working overtime sending him and Eternity warnings in their dreams.

Gatehouse is not exactly perfect, but it is still rather refreshing to watch a creaky throwback British supernatural yarn. Frankly, the film does not have a lot of effects beyond the hazy, out-of-focus shots of the Horned Man, but that combined with its literate, archetypal paranormal details evoke fond memories of vintage 1970s and 1980s BBC productions.

Simeon Willis is suitably rumpled as poor Jack Winter, but a little of Scarlett Rayner’s obnoxious Eternity goes a long way. Fortunately, as the mysterious neighbor Algernon Sykes, Linal Haft chews the scenery like an old school Hammer Horror pro. Game of Thrones alumnus Hannah Waddington also an espresso shot of attitude as Winter’s caustic literary agent.

If you only watch one or two horror films a year, Gatehouse probably should not be one of them, but for genre fans it offers plenty of nostalgic enjoyment. Recommended for those appreciate its gothic influences, The Gatehouse is now available on VOD platforms, from Uncork’d Entertainment.