In the 1990s, there was a Tales from the Crypt movie called Bordello of Blood that involved a house of ill repute where all the prostitutes were vampires. The Pale Door reminded me of that film. Neither is good, but Bordello at least has the advantage of being bad in really amusing ways. Dennis Miller fighting bloodsuckers? Yeah, that's worth a look. The Pale Door takes itself seriously, and since the story is nothing to shake a stick at, there isn't much here that's particularly fun to watch.
In this Old West horror tale, Devin Druid plays Jake, the innocent younger brother of notorious outlaw Duncan (Zachary Knighton). He opts to join Duncan's gang on what should be an easy train robbery. They open what they think will be a chest full of valuables, only to discover a young woman, Pearl (Natasha Bassett), inside. When Duncan is wounded, Pearl takes him and the rest of the gang to her small town, where the local madam, Maria (Melora Walters), might ostensibly be able to help. Maria actually leads a coven of sultry prostitute witches who seduce and then slay the men one by one. As fate would have it, somebody in the group has something they want very badly.
It takes a long time to get to the horror stuff. The Pale Door spends well over half an hour giving us the tragic backstory of Duncan and Jake, introducing us to the gang members who won't stick around long anyway, and building up to the train robbery. Once we finally get a look at the witches – who are covered in crusted blood and can climb on the ceiling – it seems like the movie might finally start to get fun. One or two gruesome moments do provide a jolt, particularly a shot of a naked witch bathing in a pool of blood.
Rather than delving into that, director/co-writer Aaron B. Koontz (Scare Package) treads water, giving us a lot of scenes dealing with how Duncan has always protected Jake, and now it's the younger sibling's turn to protect his older brother. We get the gist of their one-note relationship very quickly, yet the film continues to drag it out, effectively slowing the pace to a crawl in the process. What the witches want is well-conceived, but The Pale Door never takes it beyond a surface level. Lack of three-dimensional drama on this front also creates a sensation that the film is going nowhere.
The actors – including Pat Healy and Noah Segan as two of the gang members – do adequate work with what they're given. On the whole, though, the movie is underwhelming. Good ideas are left under-developed, horrific moments are too far between, and the women in the story – Maria and Pearl, especially – are never given the same due as the men, rendering them ineffective villains.
The Pale Door winds up being disappointingly dull.
Note: The film is now available in theaters, on Demand and Digital
out of four
The Pale Door is unrated, but contains adult language, sexuality/nudity, and graphic bloody violence. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.