The Town That Dreaded Sundown: Movie Review

The Town That Dreaded Sundown: Movie Review

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Before we get to the synopsis, let’s roll with a bit of history.
In the spring of 1946, a serial killer dubbed The Phantom Killer terrorized Texarkana.  Over the span of ten weeks, he attacked eight people, killing five.  Seeing as how these attacks occurred at night, they were referred to as The Texarkana Moonlight Murders.  The killer was never caught or identified.  He was reported to have worn a white mask over his head with eye holes cut out.
In 1976, The Town That Dreaded Sundown was released.  It was based on the events in 1946, but it took many liberties.  For example, the movie contained more trombone-related murders than actually occurred.
Every year, Spring Lake Park – located in Texarkana, and the sites of one of the murders – hosts Movies in the Park, where they show a series of movies on the last Thursday of every month, from May through October.  The last movie shown every year is The Town That Dreaded Sundown.

Synopsis:
In 2014, a couple – Jami and Corey – go to a screening of The Town That Dreaded Sundown at Spring Lake Park.  They retreat to a Lover’s Lane type area (assuming those still exist) and engage in some passionate necking.  The Phantom appears and removes them both from the car.  He beats Corey with a pipe until he is motionless.  He lets Jami go, telling her, “This is for Mary. Make them remember.”  Jami returns to the drive-in at Spring Lake Park and collapses under the screen.

Thus begins our movie.  With her boyfriend dead and The Phantom returning and imploring her to “make them remember,” Jami begins researching the original murders to see what was missed, and to find out who Mary was.

My thoughts:
I was not a fan of the original movie.  Some of the kills were inventive – again, I bring up the phrase “trombone murder” – but the movie dragged and had odd moments of comic relief, courtesy of Sparkplug, a bumbling police officer played by the director (Charles B. Pierce).  It was a fine early slasher, but not one I find myself being called back to.

town-phantom-in-fieldThis movie is basically a remake, but it recognizes the original film, so it essentially works as a sequel and a remake.  The term “meta-sequel” was thrown around for this movie and I suppose that fits, even if I don’t really like that term.  I’m old.  Your new terminology frightens and confuses me.

Let’s see…didn’t like original movie…scared by the younger generation…what else…
Oh yeah.  This movie.

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I loved this movie.  A straight remake would have been perfectly fine, but the twist elevated it to another level.  It added a new dimension and allowed it to play just as well as its own movie as a remake.  There were just enough red herrings thrown in to keep me off balance.

town-jami-coreySince this is a slasher movie, let’s talk about the kills.  OH, THE KILLS.  They were violent and nasty and wonderful.  They nodded back to the original (hello again, trombone), while adding in some fun new visuals.

The cast was great.  The atmosphere was great.  This movie is great.  It’s always nice to find a modern slasher that expands beyond, “Let’s just kill a bunch of horny teenagers,” if only slightly.

Rating: 5/5

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