The Pale Door

The Pale Door (2020)
★ / ★★★★

It looks and feels like everyone on screen simply puts on costumes of cowboys and witches, and somehow the fashion show is supposed to be enough to get us to care about its characters, to be curious of the mythos involving the American West and witchcraft, and to be entertained just because there is a body count. “The Pale Door” is an insult to the horror-western sub-genre; not only does it lack the fangs to compel the viewers into paying attention, it lacks the bite in order to allow the work to stand out from its contemporaries and leave a positive, long-lasting impression.

The screenplay by Cameron Burns, Aaron B. Koontz, and Keith Lansdale offers plot but no drama, dialogue but no conviction, conflict but no reason. It creates a depressing film, the kind that pushes you deeper and deeper into the couch until you nod off and dream about something else far more interesting. This is a positive alternative considering that being awake and trying to pay attention breeds confusion, frustration, anger, and—eventually—total surrender. As I turned off the television, I felt a pang of regret. “Why didn’t I turn it off halfway through?”

Still unconvinced? Then let’s go on. A gang of thieves, led by Duncan (Zachary Knighton), are hoping for a massive payday. According to their intel, in which Wylie (Pat Healy) is in charge of, a train is transporting a safe that houses great riches. But once the thieves manage to get aboard, there is no safe. Instead, there is a chest… and something appears to move inside.

This so-called train heist is executed so poorly, for a minute I had to convince myself it wasn’t a spoof. There is no energy, no excitement, no semblance of tension. We hear gunshots going off (with the occasional blood spatter on the window), but the film offers no discernible choreography. We have no idea from which angle the thieves are shooting from, for instance. Targets simply drop dead as if they had brain aneurisms. It’s so laughable and silly… until you realize there is more than an hour left of the picture.

It doesn’t get any better. Soon one of the thieves is gravely injured. They are informed there is a town a nearby. Perhaps there is a doctor there who can help. This is where the witches come in. Although I admired the look of their true form—diseased and rotting, as if they’ve been burnt, dumped in a well, and marinated there for weeks—there is nothing about them that’s unique or interesting. To make them modern-scary, these animalistic witches are capable of climbing walls and ceilings. But why? It isn’t enough that they do not die when shot in the head and the like. They are required to behave like zombies and Japanese ghosts. What is the inspiration for this drivel? It comes across as though the approach is simply to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. But it is not done in a fun or joyful way; it reeks of lacking concrete ideas.

The heart of the picture is supposed to be the relationship between two brothers, Duncan and Jake (Devin Druid), orphaned at a young age due to intruders having broken into their home in the middle of the night to kill their parents. However, neither of these characters are written in such a way that we feel their humanity during quiet moments. They speak of their dreams, their goals, and their love for one another, but not once do we get a chance to feel their resolution since the work does not possess the ability to show how drama unfolds. Just because there is something being shown on screen does not mean there is actually something occurring.

7 replies »

  1. Yes! You should have turned it off halfway through! I am starting to rub off on you. lol. Eventually you’re going to turn one of these terrible films off in the middle, and you’ll like it. It’s kind of like “Showtime at the Apollo”. Are you familiar with that show? They have a segment where they allow aspiring entertainment acts, singers, rappers, comedians, magicians, etc. anything you can do on-stage…

    Well, each contest has 6 contestants to perform in front of the tough, but fair, Harlem crowd. Once you start performing they will cheer loudly for you if they like you and think you’re good, but if you’re not good they will start booing….and instead of wasting time and allowing the performer to finish their act, an old clown dances on stage and escorts the contestant off-stage. lol.

    That is how I am with movies; if a movie sucks, I will metaphorically yank it off-stage, and then look for another contestant (movie in this case) and give that one a chance to perform. If i finish a movie all the way through, that is an accomplishment for the movie. *of course once in a while I will turn a movie off halfway through, and later hear some things that persuade me to revisit. I did that w/ “The Accountant” and ended up liking it after I resumed around the end of the first act; that is a rare occurance, but one I am open to…

    Honestly, I know it sounds off-base, but I can typically tell by the middle of the first act (10-15 minutes in) if it’s going to be good, or suck; by that time I have been exposed to the kind of acting, writing and directing that will continue for the duration of the film. sometimes, I can even tell by the opening scene…

    I think I’m going to look for this one, and see how long it takes me to send the clown out to escort it off-stage. lol. what if I actually like it?? lol.

    • No, I hadn’t heard of that show until now. But that sounds tough. lol.

      I keep telling you, there are some movies that start off bad in the first 30 minutes but ending up redeeming themselves halfway through onwards.

      I think it would be unfair for me to write a review of a movie I didn’t finish. And no one can say, “You hated it but you didn’t even finish the movie.”

      • Ok, i put this one on, and it just felt so uninspired and dull. I did not care about a single one of these characters. I think I turned it off before they even got to the train; not a single likeable or interesting personality of the entire bunch. Then I turned on the trailer to make sure it didn’t look like it gets better, and it looked like it just got corny; a bunch of witch demons climbing and jumping around like spiders, and weak cowboys screaming as they’re being bitten…

        *Clown dances over to my computer, grabs my mouse, and closes the tab*

        So, I guess I liked Force of Nature better than Pale Door and Cleansing Hour. lol.

        PS: Emile Hirsch looks like a thin Jack Black. lol.

  2. Is it wrong that the more critical you are about a film, the more inclined I am to view it? The thought of characters appearing to have “brain aneurysms” and suddenly dropping dead sounds hilarious.

    • I think that’s a GREAT thing. Thank you. Roger Ebert once said, that a good review, especially that of a bad movie, is one that makes the reader wants to watch the movie anyway. Something along those lines. To see for themselves.

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