July 13, 2015 The Town That Dreaded Sundown (Movie Review)
The Town that Dreaded Sundown is a sequel/reboot of the 1976 cult classic of the same title. It was directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (American Horror Story TV series 2011-2014, Glee TV series 2010-2012) and written by Roberto Aguirre Sacasa (Glee TV series 2011-2014, Carrie 2013). It was produced by American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy and Jason Blum who has produced many horror films as of late with his very successful Blumhouse productions, including Sinister (2012), Lords of Salem (2012) and Paranormal Activity (2007). It also marks the return of Orion Pictures, which went bankrupt back in 1991. The film stars Addison Timlin (Derailed 2005, Odd Thomas 2013), Veronica Cartwright (Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds 1963, Alien 1979), Gary Cole (American Gothic TV series 1995-1996, Office Space 1999) and Josh Leonard (The Blair Witch Project 1999, Hatchet 2006). It also marks one of the last films that the late Ed Lauter (Born on the Forth of July 1989, The Number 23 2007) made during his expansive career in Hollywood.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is not really a sequel or a remake, although it does take place in Texarkana, Texas, the same city as the original film. The movie opens up at a drive-in where they are showing their annual screening of the town’s most iconic film, 1976’s The Town That Dreaded Sundown. The original film was loosely based on a real life crime that actually happened in Texarkana in the early 1940s where eight people were attacked by a masked assailant and five of them were killed. The maniac, known as “The Phantom Killer,” usually attacked during a full moon and always at night, so once the sun went down, the town of Texarkana would lock their doors and heavily arm themselves. The murders were never solved and the killer was never caught.
Jami (Tinlin) and her boyfriend, Corey (Spencer Treat Clark) are at the drive-in, watching the original film. Jami does not like it and asks to leave. When she and her boyfriend park in a secluded area to do what teenagers do, they are accosted by a masked menace who makes the boyfriend take off his clothes and lay on the ground while Jami is instructed to turn her back and not watch. While the attacker is cutting up her boyfriend, Jami bolts and tries to get away but is caught by the maniac. He tells her, “This is for Mary, Make them remember.” She makes her way back to the drive-in and collapses.
After talking to the cops (Leonard, Cole), she goes home and asks her Grandmother (Cartwright) if she recalls the murders. After their discussion, she goes to the internet and starts to research the original killings. After another attack occurs, the people starts to panic and everyone in town is trying to stop a repeat of the town’s most horrific summer in its history. During a large gathering to pay respects for the recent victims, a masked man appears in the crowd and is gunned down by a resident. The person under the hood proves not to be the killer, and the tense nightmare continues for Texarkana. Townspeople wonder if this is a copycat killer or if the original phantom killer from sixty-five years previous has come back to wreak havoc once again. During the day everyone feels safe, but when the sun goes down, all bets are off.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is clever in the fact that it does not fall into the now heavily disliked remake category, but most filmgoers do not realize this as the film clearly was not advertised well. The cinematography itself looks great and the production value is high. The film is well directed and it has high tension in its kill scenes, while the script is fairly basic and goes through the motions to be a generic slasher. Where the film succeeds is in its grit and gore. It is a dark, nasty film and the killer has no remorse for his victims, killing them in horrific ways, which is great for gore hounds since the camera does not shy away from the good stuff.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown claims that it is based on killings that took place in Texarkana years after the popularity of the 1976 film, which has reached a cult status, but obviously this is fictional. The acting is adequate for what the film demands and there are no real stand out performances. Even though it is a tad generic, The Town That Dreaded Sundown still proves to have a certain charm and elevates itself to be a very fun film. This is a movie for people who like straight forward Slasher type Horror with good gore scenes. For the sub-genre, it is one of the better ones that has come out in recent years, since the Slasher genre has suffered drastically since it’s glory days in the 1980s. CrypticRock gives The Town That Dreaded Sundown 4 out of 5 stars.