Movie Review: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)
In 1976, Charles B. Pierce released the cult horror classic The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Any horror fan that is in their 30’s is sure to remember seeing this movie on the shelves of their local video store. The cover of the VHS featured “The Phantom”, a man donning a plain white sack over his head as he looms over a small town. Claims of it being “A True Story” ( it was loosely based on the 1946 “Texarkana Moonlight Murders”) always made this movie so chilling, at least to me. But it has been one of the few horror movies to never get the reboot/sequel treatment. That is until the producers of Paranormal Activity and Insidious have fans a somewhat sequel in 2014.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) begins by describing the gruesome 1946 murders that happened in the town of Texarkana, Texas that were the basis for the original 1976 film. It then skips ahead to the present day and the town shows the movie annually on Halloween. While watching a showing of the film at a drive-in, Corey (Spencer Treat Clark) and Jami (Addison Timlin) decide to leave and go off to do what teenagers do. But they are soon attacked by “The Phantom” killer. He kills Corey and Jami escapes only to serve as a messenger for the killer.
Not to spoil anything, the movie continues on in typical slasher fashion. The body count rises as the lead girl tries to figure out who is behind the mask. This all leads to a showdown at the end where the killer is revealed just before the credits begin to roll. And while it seems like your typical slasher movie, there are a very things that stand out and add quality to the film.
First, the usage of the original film in this movie was original and added an extra element. Scenes from the original were inserted here and there and added a lot to the movie. They even went so far as to mention the 1976 movie’s director by name and have his son, Charles Pierce Jr., played by the amazing Denis O’Hare, be a part of the story. It was an inventive angle and I personally enjoyed seeing this blend of the two movies. This is mainly why I also don’t know whether to consider this film a sequel or a reboot or something else altogether.
The second thing that stood out was some of the shots in the film. The angles and way scenes were shot added creepiness to an already tense film. One scene in particular that stood out was when Jami was searching through the microfiche and the headlines on the newspapers could be read through the reflection in her eyes. Simple things like that help to make a movie stand out and this film had some very cleverly shot scenes.
And finally, the cast was actually very good. Most movies of this type cast plenty of unknown actors that don’t hold a movie together or add anything to the quality of the film. In The Town That Dreaded Sundown, the younger actors were mixed in well with screen veterans. Joining Clark, Timlin, and O’Hare were Gary Cole (Talladega Nights), Anthony Anderson (Urban Legends 2) , Veronica Cartwright (Alien), and Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project). Ed Lauter (Cujo, Raw Deal) made his last performance before his death in this movie. And horror fan favorite Edward Herrmann (The Lost Boys) can be seen in one of his last performances, before passing away in December, as the stereotypical southern preacher Reverend Cartwright.
Overall, The Town That Dreaded Sundown was nothing new as far as story but how it went about telling the story made it worth the watch. If I had to rate it, it would get 3.5/5 stars or whatever. It was good. And it was just nice to see that the original cult classic is still remembered by some. In a world overloaded with Jason, Freddy, Michael, and Leatherface, it was good to see “The Phantom”, make a return. I mean, after all, doesn’t it seem like Jason stole this guy’s mask in Friday the 13th?
The movie is still not available on DVD or Blu Ray but can be seen on a number of streaming platforms. If you decide to watch, I hope you enjoy. And thanks for reading.
Daryl Karpinski Jr.