Kate (Catherine Hickland) was to have been married today, but went off the idea to the extent of driving out of town in her wedding dress and veil which she changed out of along the way. Now she rushes along the desert highway, optimistic in mood - or at least she is until her car breaks down and she finds herself stranded in the middle of nowhere, knowing the cops may well catch her up if she doesn't sustain her head start. However, as she gets out to investigate the engine, a sandstorm blows up, a wall of dust that she is soon lost in, caught by some unseen force that may be on horseback: she tries to hang on to the car and leaves scratch marks along its red paintwork. But where has she been spirited away to?
To the Ghost Town, not the same one The Specials referred to in song, but an actual Wild West ghost town, so called in this instance because it is populated by actual ghosts. Or zombies. Some form of the undead, at any rate, so can Kate fight her way out of the clutches of the leader of these ghastly outlaws from so long ago? Of course not, this was the nineteen-eighties and women were there to be saved by the hero, or they were in low budget flicks such as this, so what she needed was a hero to take her away from all this, and he turned out to be Sheriff's Deputy Langley, played by Franc Luz, an actor, like most of the cast, usually seen in supporting roles, if indeed they were seen at all.
The Charles Band name we saw at the opening credits was the telltale sign that Ghost Town was an Empire production, that eighties studio which attempted to do for its decade what Roger Corman had done for the fifties through to the seventies. In fact, Corman remained very much active in this decade too - he continued into the twenty-first century, such was his staying power - and therefore was creating rival productions increasingly for the home video market when Band was trying to get his product out into cinemas, then flood the market on VHS. This model proved difficult to sustain, and the result was this effort was one of the last to carry the Empire label as the company fell apart financially.
That was to the point of Ghost Town not really getting completed, and the version that shuffled out into a paltry number of theatres before emerging a while later on video was the workprint, which may explain the pacing problems it has as though it lasted barely over eighty minutes, it did seem to be in need of tightening up. Unless those meandering sections as Langley wandered around trying to get his bearings were intended as atmosphere, if so they succeeded to a point but mostly you wanted him to wise up to what was apparent to all of us watching: he was in a different dimension where the Wild West still existed. The townsfolk were in need of deliverance from evil, embodied by their head Devlin (Jimmie F. Skaggs), a man who has been shot in the face but hasn't let it hold him back from kidnapping women.
Langley slips into this alternate set of dimensions and quickly has a tete a tete with the previous Sheriff of the ghost town thanks to finding his grave and the corpse briefly reanimating to inform him of the peril Langley must fix. As this developed, director Richard McCarthy conjured up a bunch of clichés within the Western genre, or you think he did anyway as he walked off the film (more evidence of Empire's woes) leaving the cinematographer to complete it. Knowing that, you could consider it a minor miracle that it was finished to any kind of watchable standard at all, and its dusty, mythic within its limits mood has appealed to many who stumble across it with low expectations, but it was rather too straightforward overall, and you could see where a more imaginative handling would have been to the production's benefit - this was too close to the equivalent of those Western programmers of the fifties, only updated to the eighties with horror trappings instead. And what was it about macabre and Gothic Westerns and ravens?