Horror and Western are two genres that don’t often go together. However, when done right, it can be fun like Tremors, and thrilling like From Dusk Till Dawn. The latest Shudder exclusive, The Pale Door blends its Western setting with witchcraft and in doing so, creates something unique to both subgenres.
The Switched Witch
We begin with a lovable group of misfit outlaws who resort to train robbery as a means of getting by. They’re not quite the crew of the Firefly, but we get to know them enough to feel a real history there.
They manage to pull off a train robbery, but the chest they find contains a woman who leads them back to a brothel which contains a supernatural surprise. Soon, they’re in an all-out battle with a coven of witches in a manner similar to the aforementioned From Dusk Till Dawn.
What makes horror so unique is that it’s the only genre that has to pretend it’s something else for the first act before the horror really begins. 80s slashers often began as teen sex comedies before the killing started, and in that same vein,
The Pale Door begins as a Western. But much more care and attention is given to it. There’s not much in terms of foreshadowing what’s to come, and it works to the film’s credit. It’s effective because we’re already invested in these characters, and their heist long before we see them fight the witches. And when they finally do, the practical makeup effects are gleefully grotesque.
Holding it Together
To be fair, The Pale Door does many things well. Its only real issues are in its pacing. While the Western motif is fun, we really don’t get into the horror until the final act, and then once we do, the momentum isn’t always consistent.
Part of what made other “ordinary people vs. monster” movies so effective was in their tendency to go nonstop and The Pale Door doesn’t commit quite as much as it could.
Ultimately however, The Pale Door remains a fun adventure that’s mostly satisfying to fans of both Western and horror.
It has great effects and a brilliant ensemble cast that includes the likes of Pat Healy (The Innkeepers, Cheap Thrills), Melora Waters (Big Love), Bill Sage (American Psycho), Devin Druid (13 Reasons Why), and many more. If you’re a fan of either genre, you’ll get something out of it!
The Pale Door is streaming exclusively on Shudder!