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Ghost Town (1998) (US Blu-ray review)

Specs

Specs

Details

Director: Richard Governor, Mac Ahlberg
Writer: Duke Sandefur, David Schmoeller
Cast: Franc Luz, Catherine Hickland, Jimmie F. Skaggs
Year: 1988
Length: 85 min
Rating: R
Region: A
Disks: 1
Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: July 28, 2015

Video

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Type: Color

Audio

Audio:  English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH

Extras
  • No Features
997033_585216338282048_4590484972144592521_nThe Band’s Empire Pictures are quite frankly one of the most important genre distributors in American film history. They are kind of to horror what Cannon was to action (although neither Empire nor Cannon confined themselves to a single genre). A great deal of Empire’s films were products produced and/or directed by Charles or Albert Band, but they often hired on directors to cover films they had most likely pre-sold and now needed to shoot. That was their game: Go to a festival with a bunch of concepts and poster artwork, and whatever was sold was produced. 1988 was a busy year for Empire (and was also the last year for Charles Band before selling it off). By the end of the year, the company would release 9 films, which includes a few of the companies most memorable titles but is also kind of a grab bag of oddities. Of these films is Ghost Town, a horror-western hybrid featuring the single directorial effort of Richard Governor, which has (surprisingly) found its way to Blu-ray via Scream Factory’s long-running collaboration with Charles Band.

The Film

When Kate Barrett (Catherine Hickland) goes missing from a small western town, a young deputy named Langley (Franc Luz) is assigned the task of finding her. Langley, however, hits a snare when he is swept back in time and is forced to become the surrogate sheriff to an old western town terrorized by mysterious ‘black hat’ named Devlin (Jimmie F. Skaggs).

It probably should come as little surprise that Ghost Town is the single directorial effort by Governer because, to be frank, Ghost Town isn’t even up to Empire’s generally subpar standards. While there are some genuinely fantastic films in their catalog (Scream Factory’s recent release of Robot Jox being one of them), Empire dealt with a lot of very B-films. This isn’t a bad thing but mileage does vary and that is especially the case for this title.

Richard Governor's Ghost Town (1998) [click to enlarge]

Richard Governor’s Ghost Town (1998) [click to enlarge]

The main issue with Ghost Town is the film’s pacing. It starts of pretty strong but, while the ending makes up for a lot it, the middle sags. Its quite possible that Governor didn’t really know what he was doing, because he allegedly left the production before the film’s completion, leaving the remainder of the film to be directed by the DP Mac Ahlberg. Any credit this film deserves should probably be attributed to Ahlberg. By Ghost Town, he had already shot a number of solid films and was pretty much the house DP for Empire. He brings a real sense of craftsmanship to Empire’s films and often imbues them with a look that far exceeds their budget — this is very noticeable in Trancers. For all its problems, it is hard to fault the film on a visual grounds, as it is very nice to look at and really does capture the western feel well.

Beyond the lackluster directing, the film is plagued by a very milquetoast cast. They all turn in adequate performances but none of the cast is exactly what you would call engaging. Skaggs as the archetypical villain is probably the best of the bunch but really the film suffers with the choice of Franc Luz as the star. Luz is fine in small roles but he really doesn’t have the charisma to lead this film. With a different player in place Ghost Town could have been a lot of fun but, as is, its more of a middling effort by an otherwise playful team.

Richard Governor's Ghost Town (1998) [click to enlarge]

Richard Governor’s Ghost Town (1998) [click to enlarge]

Video

At the start of the disc, it seems like we are given, yet again, another old HD master from Empire. As the film progresses, however, the picture becomes noticeably better but still isn’t necessarily a stunning transfer. Like the film itself, this is a serviceable effort. The colors fare well, with natural skin tones and a rich contrast. There is no attempt to clean the film up so there is a bit of debris and scratches but there is thankfully no DNR, leaving a solid film grain intact. The image does tend to look a bit compressed and is often a bit muddied and dark.

Richard Governor's Ghost Town (1998) [click to enlarge]

Richard Governor’s Ghost Town (1998) [click to enlarge]

Audio

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 is a fine representation of the audio elements. As a low budget film, Ghost Town perhaps was plagued by a somewhat thin mix to begin with but really the disc leaves little room for complaints.

Richard Governor's Ghost Town (1998) [click to enlarge]

Richard Governor’s Ghost Town (1998) [click to enlarge]

Extras

Unfortunately, this disc comes with no extras. This is a shame, as it seems like there was a lot of controversy going on behind the scenes that could have lead to some interesting conversation. Since Band is usually willing to dish out the details and appears on many of these discs, it is really hard to know why the effort was not made to at least give us a single interview.

Richard Governor's Ghost Town (1998) [click to enlarge]

Richard Governor’s Ghost Town (1998) [click to enlarge]

Bottom Line

It seems as if Ghost Town was planned to be part of a double feature, because typically Scream Factory can be expected to put a little more work into their releases. If you are a big Empire fan, Ghost Town is probably a worthwhile pick up but short of that or loving western-horror hybrids, this isn’t a must own. There’s nothing egregious about it but it’s hard to see this release getting a lot of praise; it’s definitely one of the otherwise solid company’s lesser releases.

The Band’s Empire Pictures are quite frankly one of the most important genre distributors in American film history. They are kind of to horror what Cannon was to action (although neither Empire nor Cannon confined themselves to a single genre).…

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About Joe Yanick

Joe Yanick is a writer, videographer, and film/music critic based in Brooklyn, NY. He is the former Managing Editor for Diabolique Magazine, as well as a contributing writer for Noisey.vice.com, and Stagebuddy.com. In addition, he has worked with the Cleveland International Film Festival as a Feature reviewer. He is currently a Cinema Studies MA Candidate at New York University.

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