Ghost Town: The Ghostly Old West
By: Chris Darkes - April 19, 2016
Before the internet, late night television and trips to the video store for me were akin to when Indiana Jones found the golden idol.
After taking the trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, it got me thinking about all the mystery and allure the buildings, empty truck stops, and signs of years past held on I–15’s highway. Over the years, people came and went, and all that remains today is a thumbprint of what was in the over 600 reported ghost and mining towns in Nevada alone. The writer of this film I’m about to refer to must have taken a similar drive, or imagined what occurs within these towns in the hours, days, or years between visits from site-seers and tour groups.
From time to time, I may reflect on a bit of obscure cinema, hoping to keep the torch alive. Most likely it will be tossed in the vault of the subconscious never seeing the light of day. As long as you think about it if you’re ever driving through the desert, that’s enough for me. The film I’m referring to is 1988’s Ghost Town. I stumbled across it, mainly because the cover to the movie (pictured above) leaves a lasting impression. It strikes a chord. It’s also an interesting premise, because the desert is usually the last place you’d think of when you’d think of horror.
The story opens with a local deputy being dispatched to investigate an abandoned car and missing girl in Arizona’s bleak desert. Because the car is in his jurisdiction, he’s responsible for finding the owner. With the only clue being a set of prints left by horses, he uncovers an isolated stretch of road — leading him to Cruz Del Diablo. A spooky, old ghost town in the literal sense. The town is filled with ghosts from over 100 years ago, lead by an undead gunslinger holding the missing girl hostage. Realizing he traveled to another time period, the deputy must track the gunslinger, all while narrowly escaping the clutches of evil.How do you kill something already dead?
The film is unique in the fact that it is labeled as horror, but really intersects itself in between thriller and western. A high concept genre blend that is really a Twilight Zone episode in disguise. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. It also gets the rare distinction for being one of the first movies released on Blu-Ray since its original VHS release.
I remember being disappointed with the film, not quite living up to the amazing artwork that captured my visceral senses. Vying for my attention on the video store’s shelf. The film does manage to give just enough entertainment to keep you occupied on a rainy day. I like the fact that the deputy had driven the road many times before, while never realizing there was an undiscovered town just off his beaten path. It’s kind of poetic.
In a weird roundabout way, it got me thinking maybe there’s a lot of things that I never really appreciated in my own backyard that maybe I glanced over, or didn’t take a moment to appreciate. As the great Ferris Bueller said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile you could miss it.” Truer words have never been spoken by a fictional person.
Also published on Medium.