A few years ago I had the honor of covering THING-FEST at Days of the Dead Indianapolis where Canadian super-fan, Joe Hart, brought his immense assortment of props and collectibles associated with John Carpenter’s The Thing. Joe has a heart of gold and his enthusiasm for the movie, coupled with his enviable collection, made for one unforgettable weekend! Many of the actors from the film were on hand as well and one of my favorite moments was getting a photo with Thomas G. Waites (“Windows”) along with the actual microphone prop he’d used in the movie. I’ll always be grateful to Days of the Dead for hosting Mr. Hart as it was the magnetic pull of his collection that inspired me to cross state lines and attend!
Since that time, Joe’s been busy focusing on another ‘80s cult favorite, The Gate! This 1987 film was an American/Canadian collaboration featuring old school creature effects courtesy of such notable talents as Randall William Cook (Ghostbusters, The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Craig Reardon (The Goonies, The X-Files, Oz the Great and Powerful). The plot revolved around two boys inadvertently opening the Gates of Hell while unleashing a hoard of miniature demons (referred to as “minions”) on their suburban domicile. Despite mixed reactions from the critics, it spawned a 1990 sequel, Gate 2: Trespassers, with both having since built a fan following. There was even talk of a 3D remake but unfortunately, as of this date, nothing has come of it.
GATE-FEST 2016 will debut just shy of the movie’s 30th Anniversary release at Toronto’s Horror-Rama this October. Specific dates are pending so be sure to “Like” the official GATE-FEST Facebook page for updates. As it was filmed in Toronto back in 1986, it’s the ideal date and setting for this to occur and is guaranteed to leave a legion of satisfied fans in its wake.
For Hart, however, this latest endeavor is a personal one that goes beyond mere fandom. Not only because it was a favorite film shared with his son, Jason, but also due to the untimely death of one of his good friends, Dan Dunlap. Dunlap worked behind the scenes on the film (Driver Captain) while also having an uncredited role as a minion. He later struggled with depression before it would take his life in November 2012.
This tragedy had a profound impact on Joe who hopes to use GATE-FEST as an opportunity to not only honor the memory of his friend but also raise awareness. “Dan was a larger than life person,” says Hart. “This event was inspired by him and is very close to my heart and soul.”
Despite his passing, Dunlap will also have a visible legacy at GATE-FEST courtesy of a rare prop. Despite most of the minions being “stop motion” creature effects, fifteen costumed humans were used in the film wearing masks (referred to as “hero busts”) created by Reardon. After filming ended, Dunlap was allowed to keep his and it is believed that of those original fifteen, only two exist counting Dunlap’s. Joe inherited the prized item and it is now the cornerstone of his immense collection.
While the guest list is still in the works, Hart has been in contact with the aforementioned Reardon and Cook and is hopeful they’ll both be in attendance. He’s also reached out to cast members such as Louis Tripp (now going by the name Baph Tripp and living in Australia) and Stephen Dorff, among others. Hart’s had numerous conversations with the film’s director, Tibor Takacs, whom he describes as “one of the nicest people” he’s ever spoken to as well as a “class act.” He’s also been in communication with its writer, Michael Nankin.
GATE-FEST promises to bedazzle fans with a first hand look at this collection (the largest known of the franchise) which also includes rare posters, theatrical promotional items, and a 35mm print to name but a few. This is pretty amazing for a movie that had critically been brushed aside back in its day.
“The Gate was the little engine that could,” says Craig Reardon who also asserts that of all the films he’s ever worked on, this is one he owns the most backstage photos from. Hart is hopeful some these will make their way to GATE-FEST and that it will be as much of a success as his past efforts such as THING-FEST and his wonderful Creepshow Expo. “They call me Joe Vision because I’m a visionary,” says Hart. “I encourage all super fans to bring their collections to light and let other fans enjoy them too. ”