The Pale Door

Major studio releases are finally back in theaters. Horror fans, however, have to struggle with handing over box-office bucks to a movie that comes from the notably cheap Shudder production line. The film certainly opens like some dedicated schlock, with a quote from an Edgar Allan Poe poem that has as much to do with the plot as the lines that Roger Corman swiped for 1968’s The Conqueror Worm. There’s also plenty of padding before the desperados of the Dalton Gang discover that their bounty from a train robbery is just a young girl in a box. She then informs them of a handsome ransom awaiting her return to a nearby brothel. People who are used to being disappointed by Shudder content however, will mainly hear a strong suggestion that The Pale Door was probably originally written as an attempt to revive the direct-to-video prequels in the ‘90s Dusk to Dawn franchise – with vampires replaced by witches doubling as demons. That Dusk to Dawn franchise was pretty good, though, and The Pale Door has enough old-fashioned action to have been a decent addition to the series. Of course, this recent take has to include the kind of lousy green-screen shots that define a cheap Shudder release. Fortunately, director/co-scripter Aaron B. Koontz balances that shortcoming with some unexpectedly inspired imagery and an ending that emphasizes the script’s awkward ambition. Fun fact: The Pale Door has seemingly ditched its Fangoria producer’s credit in the wake of the horror magazine’s CEO getting caught up in a #MeToo scandal – but that’s no big deal. When it comes to movies, the Fangoria brand is even sadder than Shudder’s.