Western Outlaws Meet Salem Witches

The Pale Door isn’t the first film mixing a western setting with the supernatural. A b-movie coming from SHUDDER with a fine ensemble cast, director Aaron Koontz’s low-budget flick sees a group of train robbers squaring off with a nasty group of witches looking for a pure soul. The derivative entertainment doesn’t break any new ground with its frights but does have a certain charm for horror fans.

The cast has Melora Walters, Stan Shaw, Zachary Knighton, Devin Druid, Noah Segan, Bill Sage, and James Landry Hébert. Probably not any names you’ll immediately recognize but a couple actors should ring a bell once their face appears on screen. Melora Walters practically steals the movie as Maria, the proprietor of a (very) unique brothel.

The Pale Door isn’t the first film mixing a western setting with the supernatural

Beginning as a standard western, the first act develops a mix of scoundrels and outlaws comprising the Dalton gang. They stage a train robbery looking for a supposedly valuable treasure. Expecting cash or jewels, the gang is stunned when they discover the “treasure” is a young woman locked up with a steel mask over her face. Seeking help for their wounded leader, the mysterious young woman leads them to a brothel in the middle of nowhere with the promise of cash for her rescue. The women who greet them have sinister plans for the unsuspecting outlaws.

Jake (Devin Druid) is the main protagonist. The younger brother of the Dalton gang’s leader, they survived seeing their parents murdered in cold blood. Trying to buy back his parents’ ranch property, Jake is trying to live the path of the straight and narrow in life. Tempted by the easy money, the train robbery is his first time working with his brother’s gang of criminals.

The western elements in The Pale Door are mostly tired and hackneyed. While it’s kind of fun seeing western archetypes getting caught up in supernatural mayhem, nothing here is particularly inspired. From Dusk Till Dawn already did it with more flair and entertainment value.

Most of the budget must have gone to the cast because the production values are sometimes suspect. When the witches reveal their true forms, the make-up and effects are effectively lacking. The creepy concept has potential for real terror but jaded horror fans will need to seriously check their disbelief.

The Pale Door is what it is – a low-budget horror flick set in the Old West with a gang of unruly criminals being slowly picked off by supernatural creatures. There’s enough fun in the premise that most of the obvious flaws can be overlooked. This is disposable horror filmmaking good enough for a rental.

Video

The 1.85:1 presentation is on the softer side with gritty picture quality. The 2020 production has solid clarity but lacks the commanding depth and delineation seen in Hollywood productions. The Pale Door is low-budget filmmaking and looks it most of the time. There’s nothing egregiously poor about the transfer, this is a completely faithful representation of the movie’s intended aesthetic.

Running over 96 minutes, the AVC encode holds up without falling apart. Grain and finer detail maintain a steady presence without tampering. Filmed like a western more than a horror movie, the 1080P video has a decent contrast and maintains a largely neutral color palette.

Audio

Nothing stands out in The Pale Door’s fairly ordinary 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio. The low-budget production features a serviceable surround mix with somewhat wimpy sound design. A few discrete elements come into play when the train robbers end up on the run from the witches. The score is cleanly recorded with average dynamic range. The dialogue does mesh nicely with the overall soundstage without getting drowned out.

Optional English and Spanish subtitles play in a white font.

Extras

RLJ Entertainment distributes The Pale Door for Shudder with a mildly embossed slipcover. The backcover lists Region A but the disc’s actual status hasn’t been checked.

The Making of The Pale Door (17:16 in HD) – This well-done featurette offers a decent look behind the scenes with comments from the director, producer, cinematographer and a few cast members. Footage from the set complements the overall discussion.

Filmmaker Commentary – Director Aaron Koontz and co-writer/co-producer Cameron Burns discuss the challenges faced during the difficult production among other topics. Many problems arose on the low-budget indie, forcing creative challenges.

Editing The Pale Door (03:00 in HD) – Included with the longer making-of featurette, film editor Greg MacLennan discusses his move working on commercials to feature-length projects.

SHUDDER Promo (01:05 in HD) – Plays before the main menu.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Pale Door
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Western outlaw tropes duel with a nasty group of witches in this horror-western hybrid that sees spotty execution of a fundamentally cool premise.

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