The western genre has far off been out of Hollywood’s mainstream focus for over a decade. But that doesn’t mean the genre ever ran out of interesting ideas to tell compelling stories – they just got too expensive to turn a profit over. However, it has always given small-scale indie filmmakers a rich avenue to tweak its thematically rich setting to provide an insight into the human psyche. Owen Conway’s feature, “Ghost Town: An American Terror,” starts off by promising to deliver something similar but runs out of its filmmaking potential before it even reaches its contrived and nonsensical second act.

Set in yet another offbeat western landscape, the movie is set in the untamed West of Victorian-era America. We follow the story of Solomon (Owen Conway), a lone drifter in dire fate who seems weary of everything one could imagine. His horse has died, has no money or a gun to protect himself with. In the middle of nowhere, he stumbles upon a town and enters it with no other hope in sight. Luckily, Solomon gets himself a job as a new barman in a salon. The old yet unusually frenzy salon owner, Hagan (Robert Sprayberry), also happens to be in charge of a whorehouse. He looks at the young man with skepticism but nevertheless asks him to partly make sure that the two women, Kate (Eva Hamilton) and Stella (Becky Jo Harris), stay protected.

A couple of minutes into serving one of the first customers in the lonesome town, Solomon finds himself tangled up in something way beyond his expectations. Soon, strange occurrences start appearing around him, with one person after the other turning up dead while others find ghoulish ways of talking to him. Who is dead, and who is alive? What was his motive for coming here, or was he manipulated by some outward spirit into this ghost town?

Apart from starring in the movie, lead actor Conway also has writing and directorial credits to his name here. Despite its minimal budget, there are some meticulously crafted combat sequences that often blend practical and CGI effects. However, the performance gets extremely repetitive while the film ticks off one contrived plot point after another. It’s always wise to keep your film’s staging and world-building as visually unadorned as possible, but not to the extent that it exposes the contrived nature of the film out in the open.

By the time the unexplained murders start piling up, they become less interesting as there’s no room for the central character to soak in the ultra-wide landscape of this inexplicable town. Well, perhaps, except for one scene, which sees Solomon and Stella talk privately about their ambitions. But even that scene takes place behind closed walls, making the performances and storytelling feel redundant after a point.

At one point in “Ghost Town,” one of the harsher girls describes Solomon as an ‘insufferable prick.’ You almost wonder if the film was ever going to make sense of its multiple subplots and unexplained character motivations. One leaves realizing that the dual meaning in plain sight within the film’s title was never going to translate with similar intertextuality in the story.

Related to Ghost Town: An American Terror (2023) – Vasantha Mullai (2023) Movie Review: This Psychological Thriller Is As Exhausted As Its Protagonist

Ghost Town: An American Terror (2023) Links – IMDb
Ghost Town: An American Terror (2023) Cast – Owen Conway, Robert Sprayberry, Eva Hamilton

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