Silver Skull Creek

Creator: Ryan Gallant
Age rating: 17 and older
When ranch-hand Ben Marsh's fiance is kidnapped by a gang of outlaws now under the thrall of an ancient bloodsucking evil, he strikes a desperate deal with the gang's ousted leader to hunt down the band and rescue his beloved.
Synopsis: Gunnison County, Colorado, 1887. A young ranchhand, Ben Marsh, pans for silver before dawn and herds cattle by sunrise on the ranch of one Mr. Vickers, in order to save enough for the day he marries his beloved Ivy, the daughter of Reverend Frank Reilly. Ben calls upon Frank and his wife Mary at their homestead, and is enlisted to wake their daughter Ivy for breakfast and church. Ivy demands a kiss from her “huckleberry” before she agrees to get up, to Ben’s exasperation.

Elsewhere in the wilderness rides a gang of outlaws led by the charismatic Curtis Rodriguez, ruthless but with a basic moral code, followed by his band of killers, chief among them his rival for leadership, the sadistic “Surly" Bill Kilborn and his little brother Tommy, Curtis’s lover and confidant Judy Paxton, and seasoned longriders Charlie, Moss and Collier. When the gang runs afoul of a stagecoach carrying a family of four and the robbery goes horribly wrong, Curtis allows a witness to escape.

Two worlds collide when Curtis’s gang rides into Silver Skull to replenish supplies and get a night’s rest. Curtis comes into contention with the reverend himself, whom he shares a mysterious, troubled past with. Frank allows them to stay, to the chagrin of the Sheriff, Byron "Granny" Granholm, on the condition of 'one night only'. Curtis agrees, while Bill makes perverted eyes at Ivy, raising Ben’s ire. The tension eases when they go their separate ways.

Later that night the stagecoach survivor stumbles into town, resulting in Granny confronting Curtis and his gang at the saloon. A shootout ensues, where Moss and Collier are killed, Charlie is wounded, and he, Bill, Judy and Tommy make their narrow escape, leaving Curtis cuffed and in the Sheriff’s custody.

At the Reilly homestead, Ivy and Ben sit on the front porch together discussing their future, where Ben reveals his desire to leave Silver Skull behind after they get married, to keep her safe. Ivy is unsure, but Ben assures her that he won’t leave without her, that he’d follow her to the end of the earth if he had to. Frank interrupts and sends Ben on his way and Ivy up to bed, but he’s giving it some thought.

The Sheriff’s deputies’ chase Bill and gang, concluding in an abandoned mine on the outskirts of town, where an ancient, bloodsucking evil known as the Dark Preacher, along with a pack of grey wolves serving as thralls, are unleashed on unsuspecting outlaw and lawmen alike, thanks to Tommy.

The surviving, bitten Bill, Judy and Tommy lay siege to the homestead of Frank Reilly, hinted as the Dark Preacher’s old nemesis. Mary is missing, Ivy is abducted, and Frank is crucified in his own backyard. The gang returns to town with the Dark Preacher and his wolves, where Silver Skull is burned and torn apart, Sheriff Granholm among the victims. Curtis is left behind in his cell and the Dark Preacher’s gang rides out of town with Ivy in tow.

Ben finds the remains of the lawmen at the mine the next day, and rides to the Reilly homestead for help, only to find Mary dead and Frank Reilly dying and delirious, speaking of the Dark Preacher having taken Ivy, and of a book that will tell Ben everything he needs to know to finish what Frank could not. Ben finds the book as instructed, but Frank succumbs to his wounds.

Entering the grisly remains of Silver Skull shortly thereafter, Ben finds Curtis its only survivor, and begrudgingly accepts the outlaw’s offer to help him track down his former compatriots and Ben’s wayward fiance in exchange for his freedom from the cell. The two start off together, an unlikely team.

Both sides ride all day to beat the devil on their trek west, and with dusk fast approaching, both set up camp. Bill makes his move to molest Ivy, but Judy interferes. Tommy is soon beset by a band of vicious Cheyenne dog soldiers. The gang fight the braves back, and with the aid of his wolves, the risen Dark Preacher breaks the surviving dogmen into obedient thralls, and gives a willing, partially hypnotized Ivy her first “love bite”.

Ben and Curtis get to know each other over their campfire, where Ben regales the outlaw with the history of the Dark Preacher, who, according to Frank’s journal, Frank had defeated in his youth and condemned to the grave of the abandoned mine with the aid of silver and the threat of sunlight, the secret weapons against “the demon”. He notes with some emotion that Frank had perhaps wanted Ivy to leave Silver Skull for her own safety, as Ben had wanted himself. Curtis refuses to believe the outrageous tale, and Ben rightly guesses that Frank is Curtis’s biological father based on their tense encounter in town, thus Ivy is his baby sister. Curtis confirms via the story of Frank leaving him and his prostitute mother high and dry, then denies the Reillys status as “family”, claiming revenge against Bill his only motive for helping Ben at all.

Dawn breaks to find the Dark Preacher’s gang coming upon a train station sans train, while elsewhere the infected dog soldiers ambush Ben and Curtis at their camp. The two cowboys violently overcome the thrall warriors, with Ben claiming his first life in horror, much to Curtis’s approval.

With the afternoon train subsequently claimed by Bill and the gang in the meantime, Bill sets about destroying the evidence, murdering all the male passengers in a mass inferno before the train leaves the station. Ben and Curtis race to catch up, finding the abandoned campsite and the remains of the train station massacre after that, where Curtis determines their route and how they can head them off at the pass.

At dusk, The Dark Preacher’s train carries Bill, Judy, Tommy and Ivy steadily west. Ivy tries and fails to beseech Judy for her help in escaping, noticing that she’s more compassionate than the others, but not enough to turn against her “Master”. Soon after with Tommy’s help, Bill steals Ivy from the group for his own pleasure, seriously wounding the objecting Judy in the process, who is then kept under guard by Tommy.

Bill reveals the last car to Ivy, which is filled with the hanging, naked bodies of the female passengers, served up in a breakfast buffet for the Dark Preacher. He chases the horrified girl in a sick game of cat and mouse, but is interrupted by the Dark Preacher himself, who brutally murders him for disobeying his decree to leave Ivy – his claimed – alone. He then slices and offers Ivy his hand to drink, which she does.

Ben and Curtis await the train from a hillside, and after disposing of the Dark Preacher’s pack of wolves in a surprise attack, ride the train down and jump aboard. They encounter the Dark Preacher and a showdown ensues. The vampire is mutilated and burned alive. Then Ben goes to stop the train while Curtis goes after Ivy, whom he finds with Judy in the dining car after he runs into and kills the deranged Tommy. Curtis and Judy share a resentful reunion before Ben stops the train and catches up moments later. He escapes with Ivy, leaving Curtis and Judy to team up to finish the Dark Preacher, Judy embittered that she hadn’t been chosen like Ivy and was left to rot on the hoof from his infective bite.

The Dark Preacher, cornered, murders Judy and fights Curtis. Ben returns to help, confronts the Dark Preacher before he can finish Curtis off, and forces the vampire to retreat with nowhere to run. The Dark Preacher hunts down the vulnerable Ivy and she allows him to drink from her as the sun rises, but her sacrificial distraction kills him in the process. After she says her tearful farewell to Ben and he in turn, she dies from her blood loss. Ben and Curtis bury her and go their separate ways.

Day bleeds over into dusk and then into night, and soon a cold, white hand wriggles up out of Ivy’s grave.

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