Ghost Town review
Ghost Town is basically Empire Pictures’ take on both a ghost story and a western, delivered in one fell swoop by director Richard Governor. He takes a dusty desert ghost town and transports both the viewer and the main character, a deputy named Langley (Franc Luz), back to a time when people drank rye at saloons and solved their problems with a six-shooter on their belt. Surprisingly, the film handles both aspects of its plot well, alternating from ghostly encounters early in the film to the supernatural western that ultimately becomes Ghost Town‘s main focus.
The initial premise involves the disappearance of Kate (Catherine Hicksland), who misses her own wedding after a dust storm pics her up in the desert. It’s up to Langley, a sharpshooter with a love of cassette players and cowboy boots, to save her from a literal ghost town – a haunted site where the inhabitants are unable to move on because of a curse from the undead outlaw Devlin (Jimmie F. Skaggs) – before Devlin makes her his bride, or whatever he wants to do with her.
The first thing that stands out about Ghost Town is how much the cast actually commits to the zany plot. That’s especially apparent with Luz, whose handsome ruggedness is matched by his spooked facial expressions in the first act of the film. But Skaggs also gives a great performance as the evil Devlin, with a a maniacal laugh and crazy eye movements to boot.
This is a Charles Band production after all, and very rarely does Ghost Town actually take itself seriously. The first part of the film is designed around the eerie introduction to the western town, and admittedly it works on a shallow level to provide some creeps and chills. Its horror elements feel like an unused episode of Tales from the Crypt, and that’s more of a compliment than anything else. Governor’s setpieces are spooky without being forced to make sense in the context of the film; it’s all about shimmering mirages, skulls bleeding from eye sockets, and skeletons shifting in their seats, and though these moments are loosely connected to the rest of Ghost Town once the film picks up its western vibe, they’re an integral and rewarding part of the experience. The film really shines, too, when it fully embraces its western roots. Governor handles the setting well, and Ghost Town morphs into a film clearly inspired by classic cinema.
Devlin’s motivations aren’t as clear as they could be, but Governor is really just creating a film that melds the two genres into one fun mess that wants to play off the pun of the title alone. While Ghost Town has little substance in its story alone – the film explores little thematic territory besides the overarching plot and a side-romance that doesn’t go anywhere besides showcasing the beautiful Laura Schaefer’s boobs – its penchant for highlighting the ridiculousness of both subgenres should be appreciated, and to be fair, the rules of its ghost past world are well thought-out.
It’s interesting to note the low budget on Ghost Town, because the special effects are, in general, quite good. Devlin’s decaying makeup looks great, and the later gunfights are effective as well. The film even reuses the theme song from Ghoulies II to get extra use out of it without needing to seek out another soundtrack. It’s just a reminder that even cheaply made movies can be effective with the right use of those qualities.
Fans of horror, westerns, and intentional B-movie comedy will certainly enjoy this gem from Empire Pictures, and it’s great to see it preserved in such sterling quality thanks to Scream Factory. Wild West meets ghost story in Ghost Town, and it’s a jolly fun time.
Click next for the Blu-Ray review.