Based on a terrifying true story, The Town That Dreaded Sundown picks up 65 years after a masked serial killer terrorized the small town of Texarkana, when the brutal "Moonlight Murders" suddenly begin again. While on a trip to Lovers' Lane, 17-year-old Jami (Addison Timlin) watches as her date is brutally slain by a masked serial killer. Barely escaping with her life, Jami becomes obsessed with finding the killer referred to as "The Phantom." As the body count mounts and the carnage comes closer, Jami delves deeper into the mystery with the help of the town archivist Nick (Travis Tope), following clues that point her toward the killer's true identity.
In 1946 a series of brutal murders, dubbed the "Moonlight Murders" shocked the Texas-Arkansas border town of Texarkana. Over a period of ten weeks, three were injured and five were dead, and Texarkana was forever changed. With numerous persons suspected of the murders, the killer known as "The Phantom" was never truly identified. In 1976, independent filmmaker and Producer, Charles B. Pierce would approach the subject of the murders for his film, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN basing the film's characters and events on it's real life counterparts.
This film picks up in Texarkana some 66 years after the events, where the subject of "The Moonlight Murders" and "The Phantom Killer" are still a hot topic, and Pierce's film - a phenomenon. Every year, the film can be found playing somewhere in Texarkana. We join the film as such a night is taking place. Jami and her Boyfriend Corey have come to the local Drive-In on a date. The Drive-In, as they do every year, on this night, is playing a local film favorite - Charles B. Pierce's THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN. When the film gets to be a little too much for Jami to handle, the two lovers head to a secluded wooded area - one that was once appropriately dubbed, "Lover's Lane". And it just so happens that it was also once one of "The Phantom Killer's" favorite places to strike. After arriving to that point, it is as if history is repeating itself, as both Jami and Corey are attacked by a masked killer wearing identical attire that of the killer, years before. With Corey slain by the killer, Jami barely makes it out alive. Highly traumatized by the horrific event, Jami then tries to pick up the pieces and move on with her life. But before she can move on, the murders begin again. And not only that, the killer seems to be using Jami as an instrument, in order to make the town of Texarkana "remember". As the masked killer proceeds to carry out a series of murders, which closely resemble the events of the real life killings, as well as those seen in the 1976 film, the town, as well as the Police force's Chief Deputy Tillman are put on high alert. When leads seem to go nowhere, Tillman and his crew call on respected Texas Ranger "Lone Wolf" Morales to take the case. But while Morales and the police fail to shine any new light on the case and with the slayings ongoing, Jami and her new friend, Nick, from the town's archive office, do a little digging of their own. And as a result, what they find brings them dangerously close to revealing the identity of the killer. Closer than they ever imagined.
In the world of Horror films, remakes are a "thing". And they have been a thing for years now. Unfortunately, these days, it seems as if a few of them come out each year, rehashing old ideas, for "new" films. But remember when "new" in the terms of film, meant, "original"? I do. And those are the days that I surely do miss. So imagine the first time that I got in front of my TV to check out Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's film titled THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN. It is a film that I had first heard about from a documentary about serial killers which I reviewed a couple of years ago. I believe that they had interviewed a Producer who was involved with the film, who referred to this film as a "remake". So with remake in mind, I settled in to take in a retelling of the classic 1976 film, one that could go either way. However, imagine the surprise that I got when I finally learned that this version of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN isn't a remake of the typical sort. It is actually sort of a remake-sequel hybrid, which also infuses real life events with those that are fictitious. It's a really unique idea, and is an opportunity that not many Horror films will have, So i'm glad that the writers took the chance to put this idea to screen. It's a rare opportunity that both real life and a movie made about those events, exist in a single story. In this version of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, the events from 1946, as well as the movie from 1976 both exist, within the film, which itself is fictitious. The script here, uses both of these things to create its own story, and the end result is a fairly clever throwback to a time when Slasher films could actually, simultaneously, surprise and entertain you.
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is a film, that I believe received a limited Theatrical run, before hitting video-on-demand sometime earlier this year. But don't let its "straight-to-digital" release fool you. This film is quality, and it is one that I feel should have got a wide release. With so much trash these days filling our movie screen, when talking about Horror, this film would have been something both new and fresh. But unfortunately, we keep being fed recycled ideas one after the other. Beyond its unique setup, I was also impressed with the level of style that this film possesses. There is a lot of artistic style that is employed here. This version of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN isn't your typical point-and-shoot Slasher. It was obviously shot with its overall look in mind. There are lots of great shot choices and setups to be seen here, along with a rather ominous aura that surrounds the film's killer figure(very much like the killer in the original film). Things do get fast paced and intense, but the film never loses its polish. Not only is the film entertaining, it looks good too.
The acting in the film is also pretty good as well. Led by Addison Timlin("Jami"), Gary Cole("Deputy Tillman"), and Anthony Anderson("Lone Wolf" Morales"). THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN has a diverse, well rounded cast. Timlin is great as the film's heroine, as she's one that the audience can truly believe in, all the way to the end. Cole is also fun, as the somewhat cocky deputy. That is until Anderson's "Lone Wolf" comes into town. A combination of two names("Lone Wolf" was taken from the real life Texas Ranger whom was assigned to the "Moonlight Murders" case in 1946, M. T. "Lone Wolf" Gonzaullas, while the surname "Morales" comes from the character "J.D. Morales", who was portrayed by Actor Ben Johnson in the 1976 film.), "Lone Wolf" is portrayed as cool and confident, something that Anderson has difficulty conveying. Out of the film's entire cast, I found that Anderson just felt out of place, and was an overall odd casting choice. This viewing of the film was actually my second, as I had previously seen the film via video-on-demand. The first time that I saw this, I remember thinking "why the hell is Anthony Anderson in this? And WHY is he playing the tough Texas Ranger role?!?. Yeah, he's the funnyman type, so I could see him playing a dopey Deputy(as there was in the original film), but not the tough lead in an investigative role. The involvement of Anderson is really the only thing that bugs me about the film. Well, that and Actor Travis Tope's("Nick") pronunciation of the word, "Denton"(as in Denton Texas. Tope is definitely NOT a native Texan. It's quite obvious to this Texan[ie. me.]).
But overall Director Gomez-Rejon's THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is a great Horror film, which these days, are getting harder to come by. Those of you expecting the same old formulaic Horror remake, give this one a chance, as it is not your typical by-the-numbers retread. You actually come away from it feeling as though you have seen something truly different. Which again, is truly rare.
5.5/10 THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN has what appears to be a combination of both practical and CGI rendered effects. While I wouldn't be quick to call this THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN a "gore film", it does have its fill of it, and the gore gags are pretty nice visually. There are things such as a severed head(the kill even uses the head to smash through a glass window!), a broken leg, with bone protruding through one's skin, an eye shot out in brutal fashion, multiple stabbings via a knife affixed to a trombone(in the fashion of the original 1976 film, and various other slashings can be seen here.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
As I said, this happens to have been my second viewing of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN(2014), and I have to say that I enjoyed it even more this time around. This film has a very unique premise, one which I think the film uses to its fullest potential. While the original is a classic, and admittedly, one of my all-time favorites of the genre, this film has many elements that the original should have had. While the original had a little bit of an unevenness to it, as it attempted to mix elements of both Horror and comedy, this film is mostly made up of atmosphere and balls-to-the-wall Horror. The way that it should be! I recommend. This is the type of film that one could revisit time and time again.(The Blu-Ray edition is exclusive to Best Buy stores until September. The DVD version however, is available everywhere now.)