Release Date(s)1988 (July 28, 2015)
Studio(s)Empire Pictures/MGM (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: F
Ghost Town is a western/horror hybrid from 1988, produced by Empire Pictures, and mostly forgotten after its initial release, except by hardcore genre fans. It tells the story of young Sheriff Langley who wanders into a dilapidated western town in the middle nowhere, searching for a missing runaway bride. He soon learns that the ghosts are quite unsettled by his passing through and that he must face off with the town’s walking dead villain, Devlin, if he is to ever restore peace to the spirits of the town and save the runaway bride.
Ghost Town appropriately got left behind somewhere along the dusty trail after its opening, and for good reason: it’s not a terribly good movie. It’s a movie with some interesting ideas, especially the mashing up of genres, which was uncommon even in those days, but the final product leaves much to be desired. The version that was released was actually the movie’s workprint, as evidenced by the use of score from other movies (most notably Ghoulies II in the movie’s opening and closing credits). Apparently, one-time director Richard Governor walked off the movie during the last two weeks of principal photography, leaving cinematographer Mac Ahlberg to step in and finish it. The movie’s pace, which is lackluster most of the time without any real sense of rhythm or motivation, makes all of this painfully clear.
However, there are elements to the movie that are worth exploring. There are some decent horror movie moments to be had, as well as some great animatronic puppet work and special effects make-up. The look of the movie is very good as well, and the juxtaposition of undead outlaws in modern times is really what makes it worth checking out. However, it’s just a notch above mediocrity, when all is said and done. It feels like an unfinished film, or certainly one that was bereft of any clever ideas during the script-writing stage. It’s worth a watch, at the very least.
For a title that’s never had a digital release of any kind until now, I felt a little hesitant to nitpick the A/V quality, but since that’s my job, let’s see what Ghost Town on Blu-ray has to offer. It’s a surprisingly organic presentation, with moderate grain on display and some nice depth to the overall image. The print that’s been used can itself appear a bit weak from time to time, especially during brightly lit outdoor shots, but not so much that it detracts from the presentation as a whole. Textures, skin or otherwise, are quite excellent, especially in close-ups. Colors are generally good, as are skin tones. Black levels are surprisingly deep, and there’s some very good shadow detail to be had. Contrast levels also seemed appropriate for the most part. There’s been some light film debris left behind, which is mostly tiny scratches but occasionally some minor staining. The opening few minutes of the movie are a bit unstable, but after a while, things seems to straighten out. The only soundtrack option available is an English 2.0 DTS-HD track, which is fully appropriate for this release. You won’t find a totally immersive experience; there isn’t much in the way of dynamics or depth, but you will find a very adequate soundtrack that gets the job done. Dialogue is always clean and clear, and both score and sound effects have some decent weight to them. It’s an ample enough mix, if nothing else. Subtitles have also been provided in English for those who might need them.
Unfortunately, the biggest drawback for most on this release will be the lack of any special features, not even a trailer. To be fair, this is an untested title for the folks at Scream Factory. I imagine it’s one that fans have been asking for, and instead of pairing it up in a double feature release, they decided to let it ride on its own. Still, at least a trailer for the movie would have helped a little. But, just being able to watch the movie on Blu-ray at all is reason enough to pick it up, if you ask me. It’s a title that’s languished in VHS obscurity for many years, and now that it’s finally debuting on Blu-ray, it will at least allow many horror fans to put their bootleg copies away for good. Yes, there are no extras, but the presentation is the whole ballgame here.
- Tim Salmons