The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)
Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by: Earl E. Smith, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Starring: Addison Timlin, Anthony Anderson, Gary Cole, Joshua Leonard, Travis Tope, Veronica Cartwright
THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (2014)
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
65 years after the events of the Moonlight Murders in 1946, the Phantom returns to wreak havoc on young lovers in the town. After a screening of the 1976 THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN film at a drive-in, young couple Jami and Corey decide to park up down a lane for some intimate time when the killer strikes once again. Sparing her life, the Phantom instructs Jami that she must make everyone remember ‘Mary’. Fear returns to Texarkana as more murders occur, some mimicking the way in which the crimes in the 1976 movie were committed. Jami decides to research the original murders to hopefully find a clue to who this Phantom is: a copy-cat killer or someone from the past?
Slasher reboot/sequel/remake THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN shares its name with the original movie directed by Charles B. Pierce. In this particular film, the original 1976 movie exists as part of the Texarkana’s history and society acknowledges its fiction based on real events. The town can never forget what happened but it seems the townsfolk, the youngsters in particularly, enjoy watching events unfold in the horror movie at drive-ins and screenings, that is until killings start happening for real. But it’s not just the young uns who are at risk as the killer progressively deviates from the original plan until everyone and anyone’s a target. Showing how far the film and society have come in time, the Phantom also preys upon two young gay lads whilst re-enacting the infamous trombone scene from the original. The scene from the original film was most disturbing as you could see the calculated pleasure being derived from stabbing the poor victim in the back with the knife attached to the brass instrument. In this film, it’s purely done to mimic the original movie and is purely an excuse for torture.
The whole film has more in common with a generic slasher movie than it does the original. First off: the Phantom speaks which he didn’t in the original. Secondly, whereas the original Phantom gained some sort of gratification from his actions, this Phantom appears to be torturing for the sake of it. Theresseems no reason behind it except mindless violence. The way in which he stabs his victims is dramatic and crazed, even to the point of decapitating one of his victims and has more in common with Wes Craven’s Scream movies. The original film, whilst had comedy and fictional elements, stuck more to realism and you felt each and every blow whether shown or not. This version of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is quite senseless and so alike many other modern slashers than it hardly differentiates itself apart from having a sack-headed antagonist. Much like the over-the-top killings, there’s a few rude scenes including a scene of a couple having energetic sex in a motel room and a middle-aged woman giving oral sex to a deputy sheriff. I’m no prude as I love my Tinto Brass eroticas as much as the next person but the presence of these scenes feels forced as though they had to include them to appeal to the younger generation. Modern slashers have always shown people at it so in that respect, the film has stuck to the genre stereotypes.
As a standalone movie, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is somewhat enjoyable but highly forgettable. It’s main issue, besides from having a shallow serial killer, is that it’s difficult to make a connection with the film’s characters due to a lack of personality of their own worth investing in.
The film constantly references the original movie so it is better seeing the 1976 film before watching this version, a film that often rips a few of the original character’s names too. THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN tries too hard to leech off the 1976 flick that with all those elements stripped away, it’s an unremarkable, unidentifiable horror.