Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Pale Door, on Shudder

The Dalton Gang would be better off trying to rob two banks simultaneously in Coffeyville, Kansas than spending a night in this sinister town. There are no banks in “Potemkin,” but the bordello offers more dangers than mere communicable diseases in Aaron B. Koontz’s The Pale Door, which premieres tomorrow on Shudder.

In this Weird West, the Dalton family is much smaller. After the bloody prologue, only Duncan, the leader of the Dalton Gang, and his younger, straight-arrow brother Jake are still alive. However, Lester, a freed slave and fellow gang-member, has been like a surrogate father to Jake. Naturally, the one heist Jake volunteers to help with turns deadly dicey. They thought they were stealing some valuable cargo from its Pinkerton escorts, but they find a woman chained up in that trunk.

She is a strange one alright, but with Duncan slowly dying from a gut-shot, they agree to follow Pearl to her home town of Potemkin. Of course, entering town is the easy part. Leaving is another matter. The one-horse burg seems to consist entirely of a suspiciously hospitable brothel-saloon and an abandoned church. Needless to say, the ladies are not what they appear—and they are quite interested in Jake’s innocent blood.

The narrative of
Pale Door (a reference to a Poe quote, the relevance of which will not be immediately obvious) is pretty standard stuff. An ancient coven of shape-shifting, blood-consuming witches preys on a pack of dumb cowboys. Eh.

Yet, a strong supporting cast of genre specialists still makes it interesting for horror fans. Veteran character actor Stan Shaw gives the film dignity and gravitas it really doesn’t deserve, playing Lester. Bill Sage (
The Wave, Welcome to Willets, etc.), Pat Healy (The Innkeepers, Take Me, etc.) and Noah Segan (Koontz’s Camera Obscura, Knives Out, etc.) all chew the scenery and play their respective outlaw’s quirks to the hilt. Sage is a particular standout, effectively showing his serious side during the dramatic climax.

Unfortunately, the two Dalton brothers are blandly dull and the witches (or whatever) are just like any others you might find in B-grade horror movies. Fans who already subscribe to Shudder will enjoy streaming
Pale Door to watch some familiar faces do their thing, but it is not a cross-over or game-changer film, by any stretch. The ultra-low budget British werewolf western Blood Moon is actually a much more entertaining weird west excursion. Okay as a time-killer thanks to the colorful supporting players, The Pale Door premieres tomorrow (12/17) on Shudder.