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The Pale Door (Blu-ray Review)

The Pale Door Blu-ray Cover Art (RLJE) The Pale Door is a horror/western directed by Aaron B. Koontz (Scare Package) and co-written by Koontz with Cameron Burns (Camera Obscura), and Keith Landsdale (“Creepshow”).

After a train robbery gone awry, two brothers fronting an outlaw band of cowboys retreat to a ghost town where they find the only occupied building is a brothel. This seems to suit the cowboys just find as most of them seem eager to rest and have a little fun with the ladies. The shy and retiring Jake (Devin Druid), youngest of the two orphaned brothers, is the only one who seems unsettled, uneasy. The madam of the brothel, Maria (Melora Walters, “PEN15,” Magnolia) seems very interested in Jake and we’ll find out the reason later in the film. But, the big problem for our cowboy outlaws is the brothel they have stumbled upon is actually a coven of witches, Maria is their leader, and they want Jake. The cowboys are going to have to fight their way out to survive.

Let’s get this out of the way now – The Pale Door is like a low budget From Dusk till Dawn. Anyone who can’t see the similarities has not seen the latter. I have a hard time believing that the filmmakers involved in this production have not seen From Dusk Till Dawn, but they all fail to mention it as an influence in the “Making Of” that is included on this Blu-ray release, which is astounding, and also yet another example of filmmakers taking someone else’s idea and trying to pass it off as their own. Hollywood is filled with them – The Others = The Innocents, Disturbia = Rear Window and on and on.

That said, The Pale Door has some pluses, mainly there are some good practical makeup effects for the witches. They look terrifying, like flayed carcasses dripping in blood. But for deadly creatures, the outlaws get a lot of kills quite easily when the action starts up, which makes the witches seem less intimidating and more a nuisance. Koontz does make the action come across as more intense and nerve wracking, however, with his use of shaky, handheld cameras and off-kilter camera angles.

In the end, however, this cowboys vs. witches movie is a bit of a letdown. The concept seems great on paper, but there isn’t enough western here for fans of that genre and the horror is all too familiar, only not as well executed. Only absolute genre fans will need to see this one.

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The Video

The Pale Door arrives on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 AVC 1080p encodement from RLJE. A 4K SDR version is available digitally, as seems to be the case with many of the releases from RLJE, but as was the case with one of their release of The Owners, which I also recently reviewed, this Blu-ray is also superior to the 4K SDR streaming version that I watched on Apple TV, which is increasingly leading me to believe that there is no advantage whatsoever to digital 4K SDR. With HDR at least it is in HDR, but then it would still be inferior to any HDR version on disc, but possibly look better than the Blu-ray version. Here, there is nothing whatsoever to cover up the artifacts that still creep into the streaming version even on my hardwired, Ethernet connection over Gigabit broadband. That said, this Blu-ray comes across as organic and filmic with no banding or edge enhancement, good flesh tones and shadow details.

The Audio

The Pale Door on Blu-ray comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that effectively conveys the onscreen action for a low budget film. The distant howling of a locomotive whistle gives way to the train rumbling through the soundstage off to the right, or the numerous weapons firing from around the room at the height of the action without an overabundance of ear-bleeding high frequencies are signs of good sound design. Still, the mix can sometimes get a bit dull and become a little too front-heavy, making some of the use of the surround channels at times feel out of place.

The Supplements

There’s a rather good audio commentary where, not unlike everything else in the world today, COVID manages to get a mention. The “two” featurettes are in fact just one, just over 17-minute featurette split into two on the disc menu and the titles are self-explanatory. They include excellent interviews with the filmmakers.

  • Filmmaker Commentary
  • The Making of The Pale Door
  • Editing The Pale Door

The Final Assessment

It’s the spooky season, so the horror films are flooding to market. The Pale Door is staking its place, but it may not have the goods to stand up to stronger horror flicks. This Blu-ray Disc release, however, looks and sounds as good as can be for a low budget indie film and surpasses the digital 4K SDR version.

The Pale Door is out on Blu-ray & DVD October 6, 2020 from RLJE Films

  • The Creative Content: 2.0/5
  • The Video: 4.5/5
  • The Audio: 4.0/5
  • The Supplements: 2.0/5
  • Rating Certificate: Not Rated
  • Studios & Distributors: Paper Street Pictures | Storyteller Media | BondIt Media Capital | Title Media | RLJE Films
  • Director: Aaron B. Koontz
  • Written By: Cameron Burns | Aaron B. Koontz | Keith Lansdale
  • Run Time: 96 Mins.
  • Street Date: 6 October 2020
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH | Spanish



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