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Ghost Town (1988)

Review

Author
Date
09-14-2002
Comments

Part of a string of high-concept, low-budget efforts from 80s schlock king Charles Band, Ghost Town features an intriguing premise and atmospheric photography, but little else works in this melding of the Horror and Western genres.

Beginning like so many other low-budget genre films set in the Southwestern desert, a single car on a lonely highway appears and disappears from view as it crosses the Arizona hills. The car's driver is Kate Barrett, the small town of Riverton's requisite spoiled rich girl, on the run from the marriage altar. To whom she was supposed to be married or why she changed her mind isn't volunteered.

Hot on the runaway bride's trail is local lawman Officer Langley (Franc Luz), whose pursuit is halted when the bullets from a mysterious gunman on a black horse cause his Bronco to melt before exploding. Why the bad guy's bullets only make things melt and explode on this one occasion isn't volunteered. But then again, depth and detail don't place very high on Ghost Town's high concept/low execution set of priorities.

Stranded in the middle of the desert with no radio to call for backup (though it wouldn't be much help considering the only backup available is an overweight sheriff named Cletus who spouts lines like "Accident, hell. Accident's when a Junebug flies up your ass. And this ain't June."), Langley stumbles upon a literal ghost town.

Through flashback we learn that over a hundred years ago the town's chief lawman, Sheriff Harper, was buried alive by evil gunslinger Devlin (Jimmie F. Skaggs) as the townspeople stood by (to pound the similarities over the audience's head, Sheriff Harper is dressed exactly like Gary Cooper's marshall from High Noon). As punishment, the town has existed in limbo ever since, were it will remain until someone avenges Harper's death.

It's never really clear why the town didn't get together at some point over the 100 years they've been suffering in the devil's holding cell and say, "You know this whole sitting in limbo thing kind of sucks. Maybe we ought to kill this Devlin guy and get ourselves a little eternal rest." Instead it's up to Franc Luz's Langley, trying to channel Bruce Campbell but instead coming off as a combination of Vincent Spano, Peter Horton and Ron Silver. Luz shoots a few bad guys in dull action sequences, gets a blacksmith's daughter in the sack for a little ghost booty and, predictably, saves the day.

If you absolutely must watch a Western with supernatural overtones, check out Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter instead.

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