The Pale Door (2020)

A band of outlaws get more than what they bargain for in this meshing of Western and supernatural horror from the director of Camera Obscura.

Eight years ago, brothers Duncan and Jake Dalton were forced to face life practically alone after the death of their parents. Duncan became an outlaw while Jake found a good job at a local saloon. However, when one of Dalton’s gang is killed in a shootout in an attempt to get his bounty, Jake finds himself joining the gang is what is to be their biggest score yet. However, along the way, they run into a young woman who promises them a big reward if they take her home.

The gang takes the woman to Potemkin Township, where they are invited to a brothel run by Maria. As Duncan was a bit hurt during the train melee, he is nursed by some of Maria’s girls. However, Jake soon learns Maria is not who she seems to be. Maria is a 200-year old witch who was executed in the town. Soon enough, Maria and her coven begin dispatching members of the Dalton gang one by one. Jake learns because he is one of being pure at heart, he may be the key to stopping the coven, but at what cost?

This thrilling mix of Western and horror all has the makings of something that could have been written by novelist Joe R. Lansdale. And interesting enough, he presented the film with son Keith co-writing the script with director Aaron B. Koontz and Cameron Burns. The meshing bolds well as the first half of the film plays out like a Western before the terror begins. The film plays out like a novel as well, where we have a prologue, three acts, and an epilogue that all works smoothly thanks to Koontz’s direction.

An excellent ensemble cast drives the film. Devin Druid takes the lead as Jake Dalton, a young innocent man who is always protected by big brother Duncan. The prologue, which depicts the brothers as youngsters practically witnessing their parents’ death, shows the level of how far Duncan will go to make sure Jake is okay. Duncan, played in adulthood by Zachary Knighton, has become an outlaw and he more or less treats certain members of his gang like family. In the case of the legendary Stan Shaw, his Lester is family as he became a father figure to the brothers as he was the best friend of their father.

Bill Sage’s Dodd is another veteran member who acts like another big brother to Jake and Duncan while Pat Healy’s Wylie is the Bible-preaching member of the group. In an era where one would expect most racism and sexism, there is a female member of the group in Tina Parker’s Brenda, a Native American member in James Whitecloud’s Chief, and of course Lester being African American. This diversity just makes the film even more outstanding. However, while all that is nicely done, we now must talk about what’s in store!

The second half is where things get both exciting and bloody marvelous at all once. The revelation of the brother ladies actually being witches is quite intriguing and insane. In an interesting twist, it is Jake who discovers the revelation as due to his pure heart, can somehow communicate with them via telepathy as well as envision their past lives. It is strange but it all makes for a nice little plot twist that starts up the bloody-filled second half, where our heroes find themselves stalked and hunted down by these witches. Some of the actual witch make-up looks to have been influenced by 1990’s classic The Witches and some of the death scenes are very shocking an unexpected. And just when you think it is all said and done, a very shocking twist will make you think one way but goes off in a very different and unexpected turn.

The Pale Door is a wild ride of a Western-horror film which under an exploitation title could be “Outlaws vs. Witches”. The ensemble cast do a great job and the script brings in some wonderful twists that are both intriguing and even a bit of a shock.

WFG RATING: B+

RLJE Films presents a Paper Street Pictures production in association with Storyteller Media and Bondit Media Capital. Director: Aaron B. Koontz. Producers: Cameron Burns, Aaron B. Koontz, Ashleigh Snead, Roman Dent, James Norrie, and Matt Thomas. Writers: Aaron B. Koontz, Cameron Burns, and Keith Lansdale. Cinematography: Andrew Scott Baird. Editing: Greg MacLennan.

Cast: Devin Druid, Zachary Knighton, Bill Sage, Stan Shaw, Pat Healy, Melora Walters, Natasha Bassett, James Landry Hebert, Tina Parker, James Whitecloud, Jeremy King, Jennifer Rader, Holt Boggs.

The film will hit select theaters, On Demand, and Digital on August 21.

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