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{Movie Review} The Pale Door

I am down for a genre mishmash. It’s a little like the lunch table I sat at in High School. The outcasts. Some dungeons and dragons nerds. Some of us into horror. Even the LARPERS had a seat at our table. Our diverse group often helped each other, championed new projects, but mostly we just played nice together. That is exactly what genre mashes like horror western The Pale Door do so well. They just play nice together.

The Pale Door opens on two young brothers who happen to watch their parents get murdered. I mean straight up murdered, its pretty gnarly. Later the boys grow up and the oldest Duncan (Zachary Knighton) heads a notorious group of outlaws called The Dalton Gang. Interesting note the real life Dalton Gang was killed outside a bank in Coffeyville, Kansas where my own grandparents lived. I have stuck my finger in some of the bullet holes. Five year old me thought it was pretty cool. Anyway, Duncan successfully recruits his little brother Jake (Devin Druid) for their next robbery and they find themselves in a brothel/salon the night before the heist. The ladies of the building are not quite all the seem as they reveal themselves to be witches and lay waste on the gang.

There is no getting around the obvious parallels to From Dusk Til Dawn. A group of overly macho dudes end up in club full of beautiful women who end up wanting to eat them. If that type of movie appeals to you then The Pale Door will be your jam. In that capacity, the gore, the attractive women, the familiar horror and western tropes will all be comfortable. Like a saddle that is well broken in. For that reason I found it to be a ton of fun. Everyone involved in the film seems to be having a blast. It allows everyone here to take big, often cheesy swings. Not all of them land, but I am not sure they are supposed to. For those reasons its an amusing movie to watch. Much like Scare Package released earlier this year and produced by The Pale Door’s director Aaron B. Koontz this movie is a great distraction from the real chaos that seems to be invading our news cycle.

That being said Koontz’s direction is competent but not extraordinary. He hits all of the correct beats we expect out of a western or a horror movie (Although the western stuff does feel a bit superficial. It has the patina of a western but I am not sure it ever feels like more than that). I never fully bought the relationship of the brothers but some of that came from their age difference which seemed a bit fluid. The gore is fantastic and the film shines the brightest when it embraces the bloody violence of the witches. It has a Wishmaster like quality about its kills (at least on a philosophical level) that I found amusing and worth the time of the movie.

The Pale Door is not challenging. It doesn’t ask a ton out of its audience. Westerns often challenge some of the machismo that gunslingers bring to the table. This movie does not do that. Our heroes are manly men sent to slay the beautiful women, i.e. monsters. I unabashedly prefer my horror transgressive and political. This is NOT that movie. I haven’t thoroughly unpacked all of the imagery in this movie but some of it feels a little problematic. Not every movie has to be political. In fact some of my favorite movies of the last year have been pointedly apolitical. If you want something that tastes good but has no nutritional value The Pale Door could be your candy of choice. It comes out today on Blu-ray/DVD from RLJE.