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The Gatehouse Review

The Gatehouse is a fantasy adventure about a little girl who likes to dig for buried treasure in the woods, but one day she digs up something she shouldn’t and the forest wants it back.

On one hand, Martin Gooch‘s The Gatehouse looks to be a preteen fantasy adventure in the vein of The Chronicles of Narnia or some such mystical fare, but on the other, it veers well into bits of real horror that seem to reach past what appears to be a movie designed for a younger audience. Nonetheless, the movie works best somewhere in-between, never quite as scary as the premise might imply but with plenty of imagination to make it entertaining, lifted greatly by a stellar turn from its young star.

In the English countryside, Jack Winter (Simeon Willis) is an out-of-work writer raising a precocious 10-year-old girl named Eternity (Scarlett Rayner), who can see how her father struggles and hopes to find buried treasure in the nearby forest. Since her mom Eloise (Zara Plessard) died in a boating accident, the two have bonded, even as things don’t always go well. Jack suffers from night terrors, haunted by his loss, and encourages Eternity’s exploratory nature and vivid imagination, setting about on treasure hunts on their own, where one time Eternity makes a small discovery, an ancient artifact that well enough should have been left alone. Meanwhile, a mythical horned creature has come on the scene, and begins a nightmarish reign of terror in the neighboring community.

Putting all of this together is not as easy as it sounds as The Gatehouse truly never finds its tone, jumping about as if a child is thumbing randomly through a collection of books in a library and telling us what they remember. That’s maybe the point, as much of the film centers on Eternity’s point of view, she a girl herself a shaky mix of ups and downs that sees her swinging from disarmingly charming to outright obnoxious. Gooch looks to try and keep most of this aimed at her age level, with lots of inspiring bits that should keep younger minds interested, which makes a few rather jarring moments of profanity and gruesome violence and death feel especially out of place but in context, appropriate.

A mystery of sorts unfolds as Jack’s research connects five nearby locations  that binds everything together, combining a number of legends and lore. This, along with the some haphazard addition of weirdly fantastical moments and light horror, where sometimes Jack narrates and sometimes not, makes it all an odd concoction. The movie jumps from drama to humor to straight-up creepy, not always stitching it together so well, though certainly, Gooch is trying to weave a childlike tapestry to it with great purpose. A playful soundtracks helps a lot in establishing this detachment from reality, however there’s no denying that some of this will be over the heads of the children it might be shooting for.

The Gatehouse is limited by its budget, yet Gooch squeezes the most he can out of it, with some solid direction and impressive visuals that fit well with the theme. He relies a bit too much on some standards with things like characters waking from a dream that finds themselves still in a dream over and over, not to mention false jump-scares galore, however, there is terrific chemistry between Willis and Rayner, with the young actress particularly effective in a very well acted turn as Eternity. She’s perhaps the best thing going for the movie and will surely make it easy for children to keep watching.

The Gatehouse releases on 12/5.

The Gatehouse Review

Movie description: The Gatehouse is a fantasy adventure about a little girl who likes to dig for buried treasure in the woods, but one day she digs up something she shouldn't and the forest wants it back.

Director(s): Martin Gooch

Actor(s): Scarlett Rayner, Simeon Willis, Linal Haft

Genre: Fantasy

  • The Gatehouse
User Rating 5 (1 vote)
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