The Pale Door
The Pale Door begins with a quote from Edgar Allan Poe.
“While like a ghastly rapid River, through the pale door, A hideous throng rushes out forever, and laugh – but smile no more.“
I don’t know whether this is pretentious or a good omen for the move they’re trying to set. Still, it’s from Shudder, which gives me a lot of confidence. It’s presented by Joe Lansdale, and features interesting credits over an ancient book of the occult. Blood drips onto the book, and while I don’t recognize anyone in the credits, the production values are very high and exactly the sort of thing I expect from Shudder.
On the other end of the credits, a western family prepares to defend themselves from the group of men who have shown up in the dead of night. The father dies and we fast forward 15 years to the older brother, now a wanted outlaw and his younger brother working on saloon. It really is a by the numbers sort of western at the beginning… Shoot out in the street, wanted posters on the walls, and then we head over to a train robbery.. that’s where things go wrong. On the train, there’s not nearly as much gold or money as they expected… But there IS a girl chained up, locked in a box. In the ensuing scuffle, the older brother gets shot, and she offers to take them back to her hometown, where there would be doctors. She says it would be a reward for her safe return. Still, it’s all incredibly suspicious..-she takes them to the town square, to the local saloon which is also the local House of ill repute. Everyone is welcoming. Overly welcoming.
The ladies take the men up to the various rooms and prep them… And this is where everything goes awry. Monster creeps along the ceiling, unseen. The women seduce the men, also doing curious things, such as saving clippings of hair.
All of thier heads snapped to attention when they learn younger brother is a virgin… and that he’s never taken a life. The Madame, sits him down to explain the plot. We get a flashback to her life before these days. She was accused of being a witch, and strung up to burn, even while pregnant..and all of it, 200 years ago.
Upstairs, the women transform into monsters witches, and begin the killing. Cowboys versus witches, guns versus claws and knives. It’s gloriously bloody and incredibly fun. It’s a far more effective idea than Cowboys versus zombies or aliens… And we’re only just now entering the third act I have passed the halfway mark.
It’s a brilliant design. The witches are basically the traditional look… Pointed nose, long chin and sunken eyes… But burned. All of them, burned at the stake… And survived
They clear the cat house, but wolves wait for them outside. The Madame commands the witches in the walls to kill the rest, but bring the boy to her. It doesn’t matter. They make their escape… Except the older brother is still back in town with the witches and younger brother is determined to go and rescue him. We had into the final act on a suicide mission… Cowboys versus witches.
This is good. It’s shockingly good. Like I said, it works better than some of the other matchups like Cowboys vs Aliens or Cowboys vs Zombies or even the creepiness of Dead Seven or House 2. The witches fit the aesthetic and the era and the actors commit fully to the idea. This is a genuine Western, and at the same time it’s a genuine horror film. It knows exactly how much each to put in, with all the gunplay and prairie dust you expect from a Western, and all the blood and horrific monsters you expect from a horror movie. This one’s a high recommend.