The Pale Door (2020)

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Director: Aaron B Koontz
Starring: Melora Walters, Zachary Knighton, Noah Segan, Stan Shaw, Devin Druid, Bill Sage .USA. 1h 36m

While being blown away with the wild violence on Bone Tomahawk (2015) I wondered if it was going to mark a revival of the Horror Westerns and luckily it did, The Nightingale (2018) and The Wind (2018) soon followed and really kept up the momentum, pioneering new levels and atmospheres in the genre, then things started to spiral out of control and the low budgets are now having a bash at grisly film with a western feel.

The Pale Door has one of those movies titles that sounds poetic and could allude to a rabbit warren of possibilities, sadly they picked a really strange combination of events to try and build a story on.

Drawing on a lot of the newer horror tropes, scary westerns and folk cults it has a lot of energy but seems driven in the pointless directions. Starting the story with two young boys being awoke in the night when men with guns come to their remote house in the desert, their father, well aware of such a situation has trained them well, they know where to hide and how to protect themselves with firearms, the raid is quick and there are minimal casualties, cutting forward 20 years the boys, now men are part of a gang of train robbers, their bandit lifestyle is something of a family heirloom but their most recent job goes down a bit wonky.

The treasure they were hoping for turns out to be a girl with a draconian metal device strapped to her face, The Scold’s Bridle, looks like a clunks Saw trap, but the gang makes a terrible decision to remove it and the girls start talking shit. Weaving some cock and bull story about being abducted the men soon find themselves on the edge of a town they didn’t realise existed but as there’s a whore house they settle in for the night.

While the movie is clearly a western filled with ‘horrible witches, there’s a fantasy set up about the younger of the brothers, Jake (Druid) being some kind of pure blood being who’s insatiable to the evil women of the craft but the how and why isn’t as important as us knowing they want him.

Soon it’s a clash between gunslingers and the baby boiling girl gang who’s make up ends up with some of the looking like Angelia Houston in The Witches (19) but somehow it’s not supposed to be a comedy, but it’s hard to see it in any other light as the movie breaks down and whimpers until it’s bitter end.

There’s supposed to be some kind of brotherhood among the men, they have been bandits together for some time and nothing will change that, but moments after meeting some pretty ladies in a brothel and some slight hallucinations they are all ready to cut each other’s throats.

The terrible accents were that Cajun or Creole?, lame dress up costumes and labored delivery of lines makes it really hard to take the movie too seriously, however your own personal philosophy on Horror Westerns will persuade either keep on watching or switch this off.

Aaron B Koontz mashes up the two genres by switching one on then the other but the film is never really scary per say it just features a few lazy witches with manifest and ability to make a man so hungry he eats a shard of glass. Wandering around with cow skulls prouting poetry isn’t really the be all of horror, Tomasina from The Witch (2015 ) would run her delicious rings around all of them.

I must admit that the poster caught my attention, it’s more atmospheric than the entire movie, the enticement in the words Bubba Ho_Tep and Cold in July, sadly, only refers to it being presented by the writer of the later, and the panache didn’t wear off.

Pale Door refuses to be a real horror, it comes off as more of a spoof, but there are guns, sand and picket fences so it has to be a western right, but it just feels like a costumed romp, no one really comes off as hardened bandit, there’s no dramatic soundtrack, total lack of setting and scenery but at least the story is pretty original. It really could have been great, the Wicca version of Bone Tomahawk however it ends up being molding amusing and for all the wrong reasons.

Rating: 2/10

Relate: Bone Tomahawk (2015), The Burrowers (2008), Grim Prairie Tales (1990).
Lists: Horror Westerns Vol

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