• Kelly M. Hudson

Rootin' Tootin' Shootin' Ghosts!

In the dusty outskirts of an unnamed Arizona town, Kate (Catherine Hickland) has ditched her wedding and is running off alone, living free and feeling pretty good about it. That good feeling goes sour, however, as she drives into a mysterious sandstorm and disappears. Her car is found abandoned and Deputy Langley (Franc Luz) is called to the scene to do a little investigating. While the sheriff is off getting reinforcements, Langley is attacked by a phantom cowboy on a horse, his truck burns in a mysterious fire, and he’s forced to head off on foot to find some help. He winds up in a rundown and abandoned ghost town, full of, uh, ghosts, some that mean to help, others that mean to kill. Turns out there’s a very bad spirit haunting the area, Devlin (Jimmie F. Skaggs), the ghost of an outlaw who killed the last sheriff and is now holding Kate as his captive. Langley has to figure out a way to destroy this walking corpse and rescue the girl before they get themselves killed.

I saw Ghost Town on VHS when it got released in 1988. I remember being excited for it and then ultimately feeling let down with what I got. I thought it was boring and hadn’t seen it since. But I found the blu ray cheap and gave it another whirl and you know what? It ain’t half-bad. First off, there’s some terrific makeup and prosthetic effects in the film. Devlin looks simply amazing, with detailed face and hand wounds that look absolutely real. There’s not much gore to be had but when the bullets strike, they don’t shy from exploding bone fragments and lots of blood. The acting is decent and the sets are striking. There’s also some really creepy moments floating around in there. The biggest problem I had with the movie was its schizophrenic nature. It couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, a ghost movie, a zombie movie, what? The rules they set up kept changing and that led to confusion and ultimately I reached the point where I just gave up and went along for the ride. It turns out there were multiple script changes that led to the director walking off the set before filming was finished. The DP had to take over. That explains a lot.

Ghost Town is a solid if uninspiring film. I love the combination of Westerns and Horror and it’s a shame there’s maybe only a handful in existence that actually work. Kudos to these guys for trying, and for doing something very, very different in the Horror genre back in ’88. While it doesn’t fire on all cylinders, it also doesn’t fire blanks. There’s enough bang here to warrant you watching it, but not enough to blow your head off.

Two and a Half Stars out of Four

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