31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2018, Night #25 – The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

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Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Writer(s): Robert Aguirre-Sacasa

Studio/Distributor: Blumhouse/Orion Pictures

Budget: Unknown

Box Office: Unknown

Release Date: 26 October 2014

IMDb Rating: 5.6/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 70%

UK Blu Ray release? DVD only

Cast

Addison Timlin – Jami

Veronica Cartwright – Lillian

Anthony Anderson – Lon Wolf Morales

Travis Tope – Nick

Joshua Leonard – Deputy Foster

Andy Abele – Sackhead

Trailer

Plot According to IMDb

65 years after a masked serial killer terrorised the small town of Texarkana, the so-called ‘moonlight murders’ begin again. Is it a copycat or something more sinister?

Inertia’s Insight

Dubbed a meta-sequel to the 1976 film of the same name, The Town That Dreaded Sundown finds a young teenage girl the sole survivor of an attack from The Phantom, a sack-masked killer that echoes the Zodiac Killer in his approach to his victims.

Forced into her position as investigative survivor by this masked maniac, Jami Lerner delves in to the world of The Phantom, in both present, past and film form, to understand why he has returned and why he is “doing it for Mary”.

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It’s this investigative aspect of the film that sets it apart from your modern day slasher films – though we’re still gifted plenty of gore and inventive kills, we’re also expected to concentrate on the scenes in between those kills, which is a feat this film manages to achieve. That said, death via trombone leaves much to chuckle about long after that scene has finished.

Addison Timlin is endearing as Jami – beautiful, reserved and seriously strong, Jami overcomes obstacles that no teenage girl should have to face.

The film imbues that sense of small town America, not only with the community that come together in the face of such difficult times, screaming at the authorities at a town hall meeting or being preached to by the popular pastor, we’re also given long shots of the small buildings and wide roads that make up the bread and butter of the town.

It’s also very retro; the film references the fact that the events, and the subsequent ‘film’ that was made, are a product of the 1970’s but the modern day that we focus on also emits that era’s qualities – the clothes, the cars, the haircuts are all very retro and are juxtaposed with the modern technology and music that the characters interact with. It works along the same lines as It Follows.

It stalls in the middle somewhat as the investigation leads Jami and Nick – an old school alum of Jami’s that assists her with her investigation and grows close to her despite Jami’s hesitancy – to discover that the director of the film ‘inspired by true events’ is still alive, leading them on a new path that brings them face to face with the killer.

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There’s echoes of Scream in the ending, though I won’t reveal too much detail. It’s a bloody, brutal and heart-breaking ending that, though disappointing, also makes perfect sense.

A film about a film within a film, The Town That Dreaded Sundown enjoys its position as a meta-sequel, dancing between fact and fiction at just the right pace to keep us on our toes in true whodunnit fashion. Though the ending disappoints slightly, it’s a taut and dark slasher film that wears its heart very bloodily on its sleeve.

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)

★★

Trivia

  • Loose remake of the 1976 film of the same name
  • Denis O’Hare also voices the narration at the start of the film

Quick Quote

QUOTE: In the spring of 1946, in the small town of Texarkana, on the Texas/Arkansas border, a series of horrific murders were committed by a masked assailant known only as the phantom killer. For three harrowing months, the phantom stalked the back roads of Texarkana following young couples looking for privacy to isolated areas where their screams for help would go unanswered. Though several arrests were made in connection to the brutal slayings which ended as suddenly as they began, the killer’s identify was never confirmed. Indeed many people who lived through that nightmare time believe the phantom spend the rest of his days free, walking the streets of Texarkana quietly, anonymously, until his assumed death in 1976 a film inspired by the infamous Moonlight Murders was released. Every year on Halloween “The Town that Dreaded Sundown” is screened somewhere in Texarkana, in tribute to the Phantom’s legacy of death and blood. Today, Texarkana is a place haunted by its past, defined by a mystery that was never solved, and a tragedy that could never be forgotten. The following happened in Texarkana last year.


Tomorrow: Night #26 – The Belko Experiment (2016)

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