The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

Nearly 40 years after the film based on the killings in Texarkana in 1946, the Phantom Killer returns in a slasher film that plays out as both a sequel to the original 1976 thriller and a fictional resolution to the actual crimes on which it was based!

Finally available on DVD for $9.99 with a Blu-ray release scheduled for Sept. 8, “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” (2014) has been making the rounds at film festivals, via streaming On Demand and Netflix over the last 12 months. This extremely “meta,” extraordinarily brutal and incredibly efficient 86 minute little slasher-mystery film isn’t going to change the way you see the modern horror genre, but it certainly might quench the blood thirst of fans of the “Friday the 13th” and the “Scream” franchises.

Director Charles B Pierce’s 1976 “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” was made in a pseudo-documentary style, a technique he had great success with earlier in his career with the Drive-In southern Bigfoot epic, “The Legend of Boggy Creek.” The mock documentary footage of the masked Phantom Killer carrying out cold and merciless murders in Texarkana in grainy 1940’s film stock gave the movie the feel of authenticity which cemented its place in cult film history.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s contemporary follow-up serves as a sequel and remake at the same time. “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” (2014) takes place 65 years after the real life unsolved murders as a new Phantom Killer emerges who seems to be trying to recreate the murder scenes from 1946. A big part of the fun and inventiveness in this reimagining, however, is that all of this takes place in a world where everyone in this little Texarkana town is well aware of both the original murders and the 1976 movie. In fact, the movie is a local pop cultural touchstone among town youths and is screened annually at a big Halloween Drive-In party.

Just like Louisville celebrates “Return of the Living Dead” every Halloween, this little town celebrates the cult horror movie that put it on the map.

Addison Timlin plays the young protagonist, Jami, who is at a crossroads in her life. She has recently graduated from high school and must decide whether to stay in the comfort of her home town or leave for the unknown future of college. On a Halloween date at the Drive-In, partaking in the town’s celebration of its moment in unsolved crime history, she convinces her young paramour to leave the cinematic bloodbath early for a quiet moment of intimacy in the park.

Enter the Phantom Killer, who assaults the couple’s car, savagely murdering her would be boyfriend and giving her no choice but to flee for her life.

In the aftermath of the attack, the local police call the FBI and its lead investigator, “Lone WolfMorales (Anthony Anderson), to try and catch the killer before he murders more innocent people and disappears just like before. We’re provided a healthy number of suspects and red herrings, most of them played by genre veterans like Chief Deputy Gary Cole (“American Gothic”), Reverend Edward Herrmann (“The Lost Boys”), Veronica Cartwright (“Alien”) and Joshua Leonard (“The Blair Witch Project”). Like the “Scream” franchise, you’ll spend the next hour of the film playing “Guess the killer” as you are treated to one extremely gory death after another. Props to the practical effects guys here!

Slasher fans will probably get the most out of “The Town That Dreaded Sundown.” The carnage is quite brutal and the sex scenes are quite graphic. This isn’t PG-13 multiplex horror. It’s a hard R in every way imaginable, and the stuntman playing the hooded Phantom Killer gives Jason Voorhees a run for his money as a physically intimating and brutal psychopath. Close-ups of his rage filled, steely eyes coupled with an aggressive physical performance gives this Phantom Killer an iconic presence.

As our heroine becomes amateur sleuth, she follows a breadcrumb trail that even leads her to the home of the original film director’s son, Charles B. Pierce, Jr., for advice on who his father believed to be the actual real life killer. Fact and fiction blur as the film speeds at a breakneck pace to an admittedly “Scooby Doo”-like reveal of the murderous culprit and his/her motivations.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown” (2014) is kind of fun, reasonably suspenseful and over before it outstays its welcome. It’s a modestly clever update of an old chestnut that will surely satisfy those fans wondering why the sequel to the 2009 “Friday the 13th” reboot hasn’t come out yet.

The Phantom of The Ville

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