Monday 24 August 2015

The Town That Dreaded Sundown

If you're someone who's into true crime, you'll know that throughout the bloody history of serial killers, the vast majority of them were caught in the end. Whether they served a life in prison, met their deaths through the legal system or were eventually caught prior to a natural death, it's something of a rarity for a serial killer to have never been found out. The big unsolved serial killer case that comes to mind is the Zodiac murders of course, but the Phantom Killer who plagued Texarkana in 1940's is just as chilling. The Town That Dreaded Sundown plays into this.

Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes The Town That Dreaded Sundown, a fun and frightening horror flick. The Town That Dreaded Sundown is both a king of remake and a sequel to the original 1976 The Town That Dreaded Sundown, which was directed by Charles B. Pierce. The original film was a dramatisation of the murders that happened around Texarkana in the 40's, whereas this latest version is set within a world in which that original film is common knowledge. In fact, in this film the original film is so well known that it's shown every year in the same area in which the murders happened. Whereas art once imitated life, this time life imitates art, as the murders being to happen again, and the latest killing spree is purely because of how widely known the original film is. So it's kind of a meta-sequel, I guess?

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a very respectable horror film. It doesn't astound, but considering it's very closely tied to its 1976 iconic namesake, it could have been awful. The cast here is pretty solid, with most of the responsibility being shouldered by Addison Timlin. Timlin plays the role of Jami, a girl who (kind of) witnesses the murder of her boyfriend at the hands of the Phantom Killer. She's spared by the killer and he leaves her with the chilling and confusing words, "This is for Mary. Make them remember". Who Mary is and why the killer wants people to remember her becomes clear near the end, and it's all heavily tied into the creation of the original film. Timlin plays Jami with both an aura of strength and vulnerability behind her, but she certainly doesn't come across as a typical damsel in distress. She's strong willed but- like anyone else would be- is helpless when confronted by the killer that's alluding the police, and claims to be the same perpetrator from the original murders.

Though the cinematography leaves something to be desired (hello dark rooms lit by garish primary colours!), the atmosphere that's built throughout The Town That Dreaded Sundown is pretty great. It's all nicely capped off by the murders themselves, and while they certainly don't reach the disturbing heights of the kills in 2007's Zodiac, the kills here essentially fall in line with what happened in the original film. With the killer clearly trying to emulate that film, for some viewers certain scenes may look familiar but usually have a different twist. What I took away from The Town That Dreaded Sundown was the fact that while it wasn't a stellar film by any means, it's lead actress, chilling atmosphere and its great way of including the original film into its story made it a worthwhile horror flick.

Every single week I find myself trying to work out what to review next for CeX. Though there's always an endless slew of films released on DVD and Blu-Ray every week, the amount of those which are horror films just boggles the mind. Horror films are a dime a dozen nowadays, and its because of this that chances are around 10% of them are good. With most being complete and utter trash, it's always nice to find one that's watchable, and The Town That Dreaded Sundown is very watchable. It's not spectacular and often relies of jump-scares, but it's nicely builds up tension until it's satisfying reveal as to who the killer is. It isn't just some cheap remake of the original film, but instead it plays upon the influence that film had and in doing so makes the horror a little more real.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown isn't perfect, but better than most modern horror flicks. 4/5.


Denis Murphy

The Town That Dreaded Sundown at CeX

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