The Pale Door Movie Review
Written by Shane D. Keene
Released by RLJE Films
Directed by Aaron B. Koontz
Written by Cameron Burns, Aaron B. Koontz, and Keith Lansdale
2020 , 96 minutes, Not Rated
Released on August 21, 2020
Melora Walters as Maria
Devin Druid as Jake
Zachary Knighton as Duncan
Seems like I’ve been talking a lot about archetypes and stereotypes lately, both on the podcast and here so, to stay true to form, I’ll start this review out with them, too. The Pale Door is jammed full of them. And it’s wallpapered with cliché. To further complicate my feelings for this one, on multiple occasions, the staging is really awkward and the cues for the shot changes are way off. You’d think that would be the beginning of a critically negative review, but not in this case. Not really. Because this movie celebrates what it is: pure, glorious pulp. It’s sometimes almost a spoof on itself, almost teasing, wink-and-nod material. It doesn’t take itself seriously at all and neither should you.
This movie is just wall-to-wall fun. The gist of the premise is the Dalton Gang, after its leader is injured, takes refuge in a small western town that never appears to have more than a brothel and a church--intentional irony? There, it turns out the denizens of the brothel are ladies of the night in more than one way. They’re also a coven of evil, bloodthirsty witches looking to prolong their immortality. It’s brutal, plenty bloody, deliciously pulpy, and even somewhat nostalgic in some ways.
When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time watching spaghetti westerns. I loved the hell out of them and devoured them. But they always had these goddamn quirky scene changes. The kind where you’d be watching one scene, then abruptly find yourself watching a different one where a character is in mid-peril. Like it just skipped 30 seconds ahead and suddenly heated conversation is replaced by a dude taking bites out of broken glass and chewing it up. Yes, that’s a minor spoiler, because yes that really happens in The Pale Door. And there are several of those types of switches. But they served to add that small touch of nostalgia that made me grin several times.
Now, I’d like to use this part to tell you about the really strong acting, but I won’t because it ain’t. I mean, it isn’t terrible, it’s just not super noteworthy except to say the cast is very decently directed by Aaron B. Koontz. With standout performances delivered by Melora Walters as Maria, a coven leader, and Devin Druid, the younger brother of an outlaw gang’s leader. The two keep you wanting to watch, and the rest of the cast, not stellar, is all the same quirky and engaging. They’re playing to a good script that doesn’t make the mistake of trying too hard to be two things at once. Because of that, it manages to be a really fucking good B-horror film that happens to take place in a western setting.
Now, the cherry on top of the cake. The special and practical effects during the second half of the movie are damn good for a low-budget horror movie. And the witches? Ooooh my, these are not your granny’s witches, kids. These are ugly, mean, monstrous, and unlike any you’ve seen before. The quality of the film says they didn’t blow the load on just visuals, but they sure as hell spent enough of it to get the job done. The gore and violence, the sheer, shocking brutality, is made to stand out and be the integral part, along with those eccentric scene shifts, that gives this one all it’s pulpy goodness. So yes, if you want a good, rip-roaring hoedown of a western, knock on different doors. But campy, well done, fun-as-hell horror? This is the place you’re looking for. 3.5/5 for pure viewer delight.
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