Gary Marcum’s ‘Through The Fire’ AKA ‘The Gates Of Hell Part II: Dead Awakening’ (1988) Vinegar Syndrome 2K Restoration Blu-ray Review

It’s time for another Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray review, folks! This time, we’re looking at Gary Marcum’s one and only time in the director’s chair, a Satanic panic film called Through the Fire (AKA The Gates Of Hell Part II: Dead Awakening). The script was co-written by Marcum and Brad Potter (Interface 1984) and stars Tamara Hext (Dallas TV series), Tom Campitelli (No Safe Haven 1987), and Randy Strickland. The music was composed by Ron Di Iulio (Blood on the Badge 1992) while K.C. Bryson and Gregor Punchatz (Robocop franchise) were in charge of special FX. Despite the secondary title of The Gates of Hell Part II: Dead Awakening, Through the Fire has nothing to do with Fulci’s The Gates of Hell/City of the Living Dead (1980), although Marcum did dedicate the film to the late director.

Synopsis:

A young woman asks a policeman to help her find her missing sister. They find a medallion, sought after by some worshipers of demon Moloch, a beast that may be invoked and wreaks havoc, but can only be stopped with the amulet.

What Works

The premise of Through the Fire is a fun one—a demon is on the loose and the only thing that can stop it is in the hands of someone who has no idea what’s going on—although not necessarily an original one. The acting is decent for a low budget ’80s film, and the dialogue/chemistry between Officer Nick (Campitelli) and Sandra (Hext) is natural and well-timed. There’s even a meta horror line filmed a decade before Scream was released: “Don’t you watch horror movies? Never separate!” The cast came directly from 1988 typecasting with permed hair, shoulder pads, mullets, neon-colored clothes, mullets, and Ken doll good looks. The main characters even drive a Firebird! I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the hair blown by supernatural wind scene, a true Ghostbusters (1984) shoutout. The final showdown is pretty awesome, too. There’s tons of firepower, including grenades!

What Doesn’t Work

Through the Fire is not only slow but the first hour is almost mind-numbingly boring. There are scenes of people just sitting around, drinking and talking, with absolutely nothing pushing the plot forward. So much of it could have been edited out. Of course, that would have left a movie much shorter than the final product, but it would have been much more fun to watch. Like I mentioned above, the plot isn’t unique. Everything here has been seen before. It feels phoned in and an attempt to make a quick buck rather than a passion project. Of course, the fact that it was filmed in 1988 but not officially released until 1997 most likely means that the filmmakers didn’t even get to indulge in that fast money factor. The most disappointing aspect here is that the demon is hardly ever seen. Its kills are off screen and rather anticlimactic. When we finally do see it, there’s only like 10 minutes left of the film.

2k Restoration

Much like Vinegar Syndrome’s 2k restoration of The Lamp (1987 – read my review here), the colors are deep and true in Through the Fire, but the final result is still a bit grainy. There are a few staticky flashes and some blurring in a few scenes but nothing that detracts from the story itself. There’s also a film commentary with Co-Writer/Director Gary Marcum option, two interviews—one with Marcum and one with Special FX Artist Gregor Punchatz—and some cool BTS footage in the Blu-ray’s extras. I also love that there’s a feature-length version of The Gates From Hell Part II: Dead Awakening included in the extras which even has commentary from Marcum, Co-Writer Brad Potter and Editor Jay Helton. I haven’t watched it yet but I do wonder how different that film will be from the original.

Final Thoughts

I can honestly say that I will probably never watch Through the Fire again. There’s just too much filler. But if you’re an ’80s film buff and Vin Syn completionist, then you’re going to want to grab this film before those Blus run out!

From Vinegar Syndrome’s Through The Fire page:

This special limited edition embossed slipcover (designed by Robert Sammelin: Swamp Dogs, Green Lantern: Beneath the Planet of the ApesEscape From New York, and Neal Stephenson’s Cimarronin) is limited to 5,000 units and is only available here at VinegarSyndrome.com!

After finding a strange looking amulet, a young woman mysteriously vanishes. Her sister, Sandra, finding the police to be little help, turns to a rogue officer named Nick, who senses that something evil is afoot. However, the strange disappearance is only the beginning of a horrifying nightmare, as a Satanic sect, which worships the God Moloch, are determined to do anything in their power to retrieve the ancient amulet as a means of bringing their unholy master to life and ushering in Hell on Earth. It’s up to Nick and Tamara to face off against not only the murderous cult, but their monstrous deity.

A low budget, high ambition, Texas shot Satanic thriller, Gary Marcum’s THROUGH THE FIRE (which was released on VHS under the wildly misleading title of The Gates of Hell Part II) blends lo-fi special effects with a grimy, southern regional flavor. Starring Tom Campitelli (Dark Angel) and prolific character actor John S. Davies (Robocop, Magnolia), Vinegar Syndrome brings this uniquely southern fried piece of 80s horror to Blu-ray, newly restored in 2K from its 35mm internegative.

Directed by: Gary Marcum
Starring: Tamara Hext, Tom Campitelli, John S. Davies
1988 / 88 min / 1.85:1 / English Mono

Additional info:
• Region Free Blu-ray
• Newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm internegative
• Commentary track with co-writer/director Gary Marcum for THROUGH THE FIRE
• “Lighting the Spark” – an interview with co-writer/director Gary Marcum and co-writer/associate producer Brad Potter
• “A Labor of Love” – an interview with special makeup effect artist Gregor Punchatz
• Alternate feature-length version THE GATES OF HELL PART II: DEAD AWAKENING (sourced from video)
• Commentary track with co-writer/director Gary Marcum, co-writer/associate producer Brad Potter and editor Jay Helton (moderated by Zack Carlson) for THE GATES OF HELL PART II)
• Behind-the-scenes special effects video footage
• Reversible cover artwork
• English SDH subtitles

About Tracy Allen

As the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of PopHorror.com, Tracy has learned a lot about independent horror films and the people who love them. Now an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes, she hopes the masses will follow her reviews back to PopHorror and learn more about the creativity and uniqueness of indie horror movies.

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