Ghost Town

Film review by Thomas M. Sipos




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Ghost Town (2023, director: Owen Conway; cast: Owen Conway, Robert Sprayberry, Becky Jo Harris, Brittany Mae, Eva Hamilton)





It's the Old West. A stranger rides into town ...

Well, Solomon (Owen Conway) doesn't actually ride. He's got a saddle but no horse, so he shambles into town. But he is a stranger. Without horse and down on his luck, he finds a job as a bartender. And as it's a small town with few clientele, Solomon spends most of his time cleaning piss buckets, being yelled at by his boss (Robert Sprayberry), and hanging with the prostitutes who await customers.

As you might expect with a film called Ghost Town, strange things start to happen. Solomon sees bugs crawl out of Stella's (Becky Jo Harris) mouth one moment, but are gone the next. Stella seems not to notice. Solomon hears a monster outside, but no one else does. Blondie's (Brittany Mae) eyes glow in typically demonic fashion, then she's normal again.

Predictably, things get ever more crazy as Solomon's reality spirals down into ... madness? Purgatory? Hell? Hardcore horror fans might guess that Ghost Town is yet another Jacob's Ladder copycat (e.g., The Fearway, Bright Hill Road, etc.), but, well, not quite. Its ending is abrupt and remains somewhat confusing, despite a heavy-handed attempt to explain it all. I think I sorta know what's been going on, but while the ending is surprising, it's not satisfying.

The horror western is not an especially prolific subgenre, but there have been some interesting entries over the years (e.g., The Burrowers). Ghost Town combines old tropes from both westerns and horror and creates something familiar, but with its own twist. Including the Victorian custom of photographing the dead is a nice touch, and an important clue to the happenings. Some creepy makeup work there.

Production values are professional, avoiding the cheap "video" look of some low-budget features. The visual effects are reasonably good. Make-up does a good job of giving Kate (Eva Hamilton) and Stella an increasingly sickly appearance (another clue), though the blood on Solomon's forehead looks too bright (i.e., fake).



Conway, who also wrote and directed, makes good use of pragmatic aesthetics. I assume he couldn't afford a large Old West town set and large cast, so he wrote a story that required a small set and cast. The "town" is tiny -- we only see a couple of houses -- with barely anyone in it, but there are dramatic reasons for that.

Ghost Town is not the most original horror film you're likely to see, but few horror films can claim originality. Yet Ghost Town does have its share of surprises, and an engaging character and story that draw your interest and holds your attention until the end. Horror fans who enjoy supernatural tales set in the Old West should find Ghost Town passably entertaining.



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