The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

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One good write-up deserves another, so why not just jump right in to this quasi-remake, shall we?

Over 60 years after the events depicted in the first film, the masked Phantom had returned to stalk and kill people in poor, little Texarkana.

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Huh, this looks familiar…

After leaving a showing of The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976), Jami and her boyfriend Corey head to a secluded spot to partake in a little makeout time. While there, Jami spots someone watching them and they decide to leave. But before they can even start the car, the man from the woods breaks the window and instructs both teens to get out of the car. He kills Corey and Jami flees into the woods. The killer finds her, but lets her go, telling her to relay a message for him: “This is for Mary. Make them remember.”

Naturally the town freaks out, more officials are called in and poor Jami is sucked into a mystery that only she can solve, because like every other slasher in existence, the police are incompetent at their damn jobs.

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If they were good, the kid would have been cited for that ghastly headlight tint ages ago.

The first question you may ask yourself may be “Is this a remake or a sequel?” The answer is: Kinda both? It is neither a retelling of those events, nor a direct sequel, which, being based on true events, would imply more real-life murders. Instead, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a fictional continuation of the real Moonlight Murders that happened in Texarkana in 1946. It is its own, unique, fictionalized story that, while not being directly related to either the real-life murders or the film, still makes references and pays homage to both.

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Translation: Film is meta as shit.

Despite stating that the events are taking place in 2013, the film has a very distinct 70’s atmosphere. There is a bit of yellow tint added to the imagery, and much of the clothing looks like it jumped out of an episode of Starsky and Hutch rather than a modern high school. Although, I have been seeing a lot of 60’s and 70’s fashions making a comeback (my mother is very happy), so perhaps it’s not as far off the mark as I think.

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Pretty, but it still looks like she’s suffering from scurvy. Perhaps someone should get her an orange.

Like the first film, the violence and gore here leans more towards implied than directly shown. However, this is still a much more violent film than its predecessor. There’s quite a bit of blood and at one point a head is smashed through a window and someone gets shot through the eye. Compared to the first film, it’s extremely explicit. And that’s not even taking the sex scenes into account. The violence and sex fans should find plenty of amusement here.

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You sick bastards.

Yet despite all the blood and death this film still ends up looking quite shockingly beautiful. Alongside the backdrop of mystery and brutal death, the film is also filled with colorful, hyper-stylized imagery that feels like it would be more at home in Giallo rather than your typical American-style slasher. Red, green and blue are prominent throughout, and even the scene composition and editing are pretty stylish. If you like nothing else about this movie, you must at least admit that it’s pretty to look at.

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Something that really surprised me about the film was the caliber of the acting. The film is peppered with talented younger stars like Addison Timlin, while the adults are played by familiar film and TV veterans such as Veronica Cartwright, Gary Cole, Denis O’Hare, Anthony Anderson, as well as the late Edward Herrmann and Ed Lauter. It’s really a higher quality than a film like this probably deserves, but it’s much appreciated just the same.

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RIP, good sir.

The 1976 film The Town That Dreaded Sundown is an odd choice for a film revisit, but the filmmakers here did a surprisingly good job of focusing on the strengths of the original in creating a new narrative. It’s a decent slasher with ample amounts of blood, carnage and sex that should satisfy the needs of many genre fans. Its cast is full of talented newcomers and veteran character actors alike (Yay!) and has just enough possible suspects to add ample amounts of misdirection. It stumbles a bit (okay, maybe a lot) at the end with the unmasking of the villain and with the buildup of certain deaths, but I think fans of the original will appreciate this new, updated take on the material and newcomers will probably get a kick out of some of the brutality.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) is definitely recommended for those who like a little bit of style and throwback in their slasher films.

I watched The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) via Amazon Prime. However, it looks to be unavailable right now, though with the way Amazon’s offerings work it may come back at any time.

However, it is also available on Bluray and DVD.

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