• Ghost Town



    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: December 26th, 2016.
    Directed by: Richard Governor
    Cast: Franc Luz, Catherine Hickland, Jimmie F. Skaggs, Bruce Glover
    Year: 1988
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    The Movie:

    Produced by Empire Pictures in 1988 and directed by Richard Governor (with some help from the great Mac Ahlberg, who also served as cinematographer), Ghost Town was one of those movies that stood out on the VHS racks in its day thanks to some pretty iconic cover art. That picture of the skeleton sauntering down the middle of a dirt road in an old western town, pistols hanging at its sides, definitely caught your eye. It was awesome. It was also frequently seen advertised on pages of horror movie magazines like Fangoria. So yeah, this one was out there, it would seem to have been a popular rental choice and the fact that it wasn't just a horror movie but a horror-western probably helped it find an audience.

    So what's it all about? Well, when the movie begins a pretty blonde lady named Kate (Catherine Hickland) is driving through the desert in her red Mercedes Benz when something comes up behind her. Hours later, the car is found empty by the local sheriff and he calls in a cop named Langley (Franc Luz) to investigate. Begrudgingly, Langley heads out to the site where she was rumored to have vanished and he starts poking around. At first he starts to hear things but then it gets weirder when he finds a grave belonging to the long gone sheriff of a ghost town. When he wipes the dust away the corpse of the sheriff pops up and tells him ‘you're the one who will save my town!'

    From here, Langley starts to see a bunch of old rundown buildings that at first seem abandoned but which soon reveal a population made up pretty much entirely of ghosts. He meets a blind gambler named The Dealer (Bruce Glover), a foxy lady named Etta (Laura Schaefer) who gives him an unusually warm welcome, the town blacksmith (Zitto Kazaan) and a saloon operator named Grace (Penelope Windust). As he wanders around he witnesses the murder of Sheriff Harper (Blake Conway), the man who lay buried under the aforementioned grave and before you know it, he's out to get revenge against his killer, a thug named Devlin (Jimmy F. Skaggs). Getting back at Devlin, whose flesh is rotting and who has some nasty holes in his face, won't be easy though, because he's got Kate and he seems impervious to the bullets in Langley's sidearm.

    Ghost Town is not a perfect film, far from it actually, but it does what it does well enough and if it takes a little while to get moving, once it finds its stride it builds to a pretty solid conclusion. The opening scenes are slow but at least sufficiently atmospheric and for that reason are able to hold our attention even when, once you think about it, not much is really happening. After the different townsfolk are introduced and the plot involving Devlin takes the main stage, however, the pacing picks up considerably, the subtle slow burn of the opening half hour tossed aside in favor of gunplay and gory set pieces. That's not a bad thing, mind you, but the change in tone is a little jarring. But hey, this is a horror-western, so a few bloody squib-tastic shoot outs and what not should be considered a requirement of sorts. Ghost Town delivers in that regard.

    But what of the cast? Well, Franc Luz is okay as the hero. He looks the part and he handles himself reasonably well in the action scenes. He doesn't show tons of range here but the script doesn't really ask him to. No problems there. The supporting players are all fine too. Bruce Glover is sufficiently weird as the blind Dealer and Laura Schaefer is kind enough to take her top off before serving as a catalyst of sorts to throw Langley into the action. Penelope Windust works quite well as the brassy saloon operator and Zitto Kazaan is fine as the blacksmith. The various guys who play Devlin's cronies can also be fun in a hammy sort of way, most of them content to just play the sort of dumb, backwards cowpoke types you'd expect them to play. That brings us to Jimmy Skaggs as Devlin. Clad in some zombie style makeup appliances that are as awesome as they are rubbery, he chews his way through the scenery with an evil laugh that sounds like it could have come right off of a Halloween sound effects record. Skaggs just goes for it. He cares not for subtlety or believability but is instead playing his role to the max and he's a blast to watch even if his overacting is ridiculous.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Ghost Town debuts on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.78.1 widescreen from 88 Films on a 25GB disc. This transfer won't make your eyes pop out, in fact there are some scenes that look a little soft, but it's not a bad looking image. There's some minor print damage evident throughout and a bit more cleanup work could have been done here but colors look very good and black levels are solid. There aren't any issues with obvious compression artifacts nor is there any evidence of edge enhancement or noise reduction. Detail varies a bit from scene to scene, with some looking quite impressive and others not so much, but the good certainly outweighs the bad here and for the most part the image looks pretty good.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track on the disc is at times surprisingly effective. The levels are balanced properly, as you'd hope, and the track is free of any hiss or distortion. The score has good presence and the dialogue is easy to follow. There are some pretty interesting moments of noticeably effective channel separation in the movie that stand out here. For a low budget film, this one sounds quite good with this lossless option. Optional English closed captioning is provided.

    Aside from a static menu offering chapter selection, the disc contains no extra features whatsoever outside of a brief stills gallery. Inside the black keepcase, alongside the disc, however, is an insert booklet that contains an essay on the film entitled A Fistful Of Corpses by Matty Budrewicz and Dave Wain and a second essay entitled Giving Up The Ghost by Richard McCarthy (in which he explains how and why he came to direct this feature as Richard Governor). This Blu-ray also comes packaged with some reversible cover art.

    The Final Word:

    Ghost Town isn't a masterpiece but it's an interesting and occasionally very effective mix of the horror and western genres. The movie is plenty atmospheric even if it does wear its low budget on its sleeve, and it features some pretty fun set pieces. 88 Films's Blu-ray won't blow you away with its transfer, but it looks decent enough and the audio is strong. The extras are slim but the insert booklet is a welcome addition to the package.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!