Wild West Horror has never quite got me good. It’s not the period, but the simple fact that my expectation is always something out of Scooby Doo. I expect half decaying corpses in the middle of a desert scene engaging in a classic shoot out… you could include some Ennio Morricone music to add Marina. None of them do that though. It’s always some character driven, thought-provoking ghost tale. Light on the effects and nudity. I suppose all the great Westerns are being used in John Carpenter movie completely outside of the old west. Empire changed that in 1988 with a real work of the strange and usual by cross time travel with a ghost story with plenty of gratuity (in pure Charles Band fashion). Ghost Town came into being toward the decline of Empire and as Full Moon was about to rise up out of the Empire ashes. It contains every reason why Empire should have continued and succeeded from a complete understanding that Horror works the best when it’s entertaining (laughs and scares) and holds one of the most memorable covers of my video store going childhood. Scream Factory has been pushing out quite a bit of Empire lately to fan excitement, and this was particularly exciting for me because despite being fully in love with the cover, I had never seen it before.
This is Richard Governor’s only directorial effort and it explains why Empire staple cinematographer Mac Ahlberg’s uncredit involvement in the picture. Ghost Town has moments of pure Western Horror that make you feel as though you might be watching your favorite 80’s vision of the classic wild west mythology, but it bounces around and plays with time too. The problem with the time play is that it’s only moderately effective and sometimes just a little confusing. The concept is brilliant and allows for battle in both modern settings complete with authentic ghost town or traditional Western locations. Duke Sandefur (who worked on the screenplay for Phantom of the Opera from 1989) and my personal favorite David Schmoeller (of Tourist Trap fame) penned some really interesting ideas that carry over nicely to the screen. The acting is pure cheese fun and the effects are practical and original. The rotting cowboy zombies make for truly frightening baddies.
While the Scream Factory release preserves the original cover art and provides an alternate cover option, it actually has no extras. Not that you need a whole back story on this popcorn flick, but given the success of the Charles Band interview on Ghoulies, I would have enjoyed some words with the man that made Empire great. I like the transfer, but I admittedly have not seen the picture until now. It felt like a good representation of the film, and no obvious flaws.
I’d recommend Ghost Town to fans of the Empire label and to those of you who like cheesy Westerns. I would not praise Ghost Town for its realism, but for its fantastical portrayal of a supernatural town that won’t stay dead. It makes for a great urban legend and provides plenty of eye candy to enjoy from both sexual and practical effects stand points. There’s some grizzly about Ghost Town that punches you in the gut and it still contains the basic elements of a 50’s TV show with modern effects and gratuity.
Not from the Scream Factory Transfer
You can order Ghost Town now from Scream Factory and continue enjoying the Empire that once was.
From Scream Factory:
A dusty ghost town, seemingly abandoned, holds the lives of its original inhabitants in an animated netherworld for 100 years…
When a modern-day sheriff's deputy is lured to a desolate, spooky ghost town in search of a missing woman, he comes face-to-face with a malevolent spirit from the town's past. The spell of death and suffering over the undead townspeople must end to set them free from eternal pain. The horrors of a possessed outlaw, in a time-suspended dimension are only the setting for a frightening battle for the mind, nerves and flesh.
Starring Franc Luz (The Nest, When Harry Met Sally), Jimmie F. Skaggs (Oblivion, Puppetmaster), Catherine Hickland (Witchery) and Bruce Glover (Diamonds Are Forever, Chinatown, Walking Tall), Ghost Town is an unnerving, white-knuckle walk into the wild, undead west.