The hor­ror film and the west­ern make a sur­pris­ing­ly good com­bo. It’s not a gen­re-blend that’s used too often — spaghet­ti west­ern film­mak­ers are prob­a­bly the ones who used it the most — but a well-cal­i­brat­ed blend of the two styles can give you a clas­sic like High Plains Drifter. The lat­ter film was prob­a­bly an inspi­ra­tion for the mak­ers of Ghost Town, an over­looked Empire Films pro­duc­tion that rep­re­sents a fun b-movie ver­sion of a horror/western crossover. The results have the occa­sion­al rough patch but show what a dis­tinc­tive GhosTown-blucom­bo the­se two gen­res can cre­ate.

Ghost Town begins with wealthy né’er-do-well Kate (Catherine Hickland) speed­ing out of town and run­ning into a mys­te­ri­ous dust-storm that con­sumes her. A deputy named Langley goes look for her in the desert and gets pulled into the same mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances, find­ing him­self strand­ed in an Old West town where Kate has been kid­napped by Devlin (Jimmie Skaggs), an out­law who has the unique char­ac­ter­is­tic of being undead. As Langley tries to res­cue Kate, he dis­cov­ers that the town has a ter­ri­ble secret that result­ed in its cursed, super­nat­u­ral state… and get­ting out of this meta­phys­i­cal trap will be a supre­me chal­lenge.

Ghost Town shapes up as a decent pro­gram­mer for a few rea­sons. From the begin­ning, it works nice­ly as a mood piece that effec­tive­ly exploits a great west­ern town set and sleek, prowl­ing cin­e­matog­ra­phy by Mac Ahlberg. Duke Sandefur’s script, adapt­ed from a sto­ry by David Schmoeller, has fun with bend­ing real­i­ty à la Wes Craven and mix­es hor­ror and west­ern ele­ments to styl­ish effect.

GhosTown-01That said, it bor­rows a lit­tle too heav­i­ly from High Plains Drifter for its big late-in-the-sto­ry plot reveals and the rules of how the town’s super­nat­u­ral sta­tus works are nev­er ful­ly explained or explored. The film also feels a lit­tle rushed in its third act, which might reflect the behind-the-sce­nes chaos rumored on this project (it’s been said that Ahlberg fin­ished the film after the direc­tor walked).

That said, Ghost Town gets by on cre­ativ­i­ty and ener­gy. Luz, who was also in the under­rat­ed The Nest, makes a solid, relat­able lead and is backed up nice­ly by an ace sup­port­ing cast that includes Bruce Glover as a blind card deal­er and Michael Allredge as the good ol’ boy sher­iff in the present-day part of the plot. Skaggs makes a fine over-the-top vil­lain and gets the most out of the zom­bie-style GhosTown-02pros­thet­ic make­up designed by John Buechler. The results deliv­er a nice blend of mood, peri­od­ic shocks and shoot ‘em up action through­out and gets it all done in 85 min­utes.

In short, Ghost Town is a fun, quick riff on the hor­ror west­ern that makes up for its laps­es in sub­stance with plen­ty of style and ener­gy. It’s worth adding to any sur­vey of the Empire Films cat­a­log.

Blu-Ray Notes: Ghost Town will be released on blu-ray by Scream Factory on July 28th. The trans­fer looks pret­ty nice, with rich col­ors and decent if not mind-blow­ing detail. Given that this title nev­er made it to DVD, fans will be hap­py to see this con­sid­er­able upgrade from the old VHS ver­sion. The 2.0 loss­less stereo sound offers a robust and well-bal­anced blend of sounds. There are no extras.