Ghost Town (1988)
Reviewed for TheBluFile.com by Dustin Putman(Release Date: July 28, 2015)
"Ghost Town" is atmospheric and oddball, an enticing combination that allows the film to stand out as a crafty, late-'80s genre curiosity. When runaway bride Kate (Catherine Hickland) goes missing in the desert and her car is found deserted and mysteriously damaged, Deputy Langley (Franc Luz) is assigned to the case. His investigation into her disappearance leads him to a literal ghost town where the spirits of the wild west continue to roam free. Trapped in a time warp and menaced by the zombified Sheriff Devlin (Jimmie F. Skaggs), Langley and Kate must find a way to escape his wrath and return to the lives from which they have been abducted.
A horror-western with esoteric, supernatural leanings, "Ghost Town" works past its budgetary limitations and alleged production troubles (director Richard Governor reportedly walked off the film two weeks early due to creative differences and cinematographer Mac Ahlberg took over for the remainder of shooting) with an off-center mood and eerie tone that suits the story well. While the script by Duke Sandefur (who would go on to pen 1989's Robert Englund-starring "The Phantom of the Opera
") doesn't seem to be particularly interested in providing answers to what is going on, and why, the film is arguably more effective for its unconventional narrative. Evocative imagery, from a group of ghostly townpeople staring in through a dusty window at interloper Langley, to the sight of a corpse in a flowing red dress hanging from a tree, keeps the proceedings visually interesting even when things begin to meander in the second half. Meanwhile, practical special and make-up effects make the case once again against the overuse of modern CGI. If "Ghost Town" is something of a hodgepodge, it is a fascinating, spookily baffling hodgepodge with a polished aesthetic eye.
"Ghost Town" isn't free of the requisite debris and mosquito noise that rears its head from time to time, but otherwise the movie's 1080p transfer looks to be in excellent condition. This is the first time the film has been available in the U.S. since the days of VHS, and seeing it in high-definition is a totally new experience that highlights the stylish camerawork and potent imagery. Detail is strong, particularly in facial close-ups, while colors are healthy and clarity satisfying. The picture displays a mostly balanced grain field and, despite the occasional age-related specks, the print used appears to be strikingly clean. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio is on the thin side, no doubt a result of the source material. The upside is that the dialogue is always intelligible and fairly evenly mixed. On the downside, there is what sounds like a slight waveriness to the soundtrack and a crackle and pop here and there. As befits a 2.0 track, audio is kept strictly to the front channels. For this particular title, "Ghost Town" sounds just as one might expect it to sound like. Just don't expect to be wowed by an immersive sonic event.
Scream Factory impresses yet again by bringing to Blu-ray a forgotten horror entry from 1988 that, until now, has not been released on any digital home-video format. To see the film's moody imagery in high-definition will prove almost revelatory for viewers whose only previous point of reference is an archaic VHS version. Is "Ghost Town" imperfect? Certainly. But it was clearly made with a lot of heart and inspiration, and is ripe for (re)discovery.