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The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

Image Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/7/2015

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/20/2015

My view on remakes has always been thus -- Why do "they" insist on re-making, re-booting re-imagining good, classic, big hit movies? (I know that it's because the film's title is already out there in the zeitgeist, so that's really a rhetorical question.) Why don't "they" take films that had a good idea, but didn't quite work and remake those? These could be obscure movies, but that's beside the point. Take that good idea and run with it. Here's an even better idea -- Take that old, obscure but promising movie and put a completely new spin on it. In the right hands, that could work. The Town That Dreaded Sundown did just that. So, why didn't it turn out better?

OK, first, we must start with a little background. In 1946, the town of Texarkana was plagued by a series of seemingly random murders in which five people were killed. The murders came to be known as the "Moonlight Murders" and the murderer, who was never identified, came to be known as the "Phantom Killer". In 1976, regional director Charles B. Pierce, fresh off of his success with the Bigfoot movie The Legend of Boggy Creek, made a dramatization of the "Moonlight Murders" called The Town That Dreaded Sundown. The movie was a minor hit, which gained a cult following over the years.

The new The Town That Dreaded Sundown is set in modern times in Texarkana. The movie exists in our world in that the murders were real and the earlier film was released. Now, the movie is shown annually to commemorate the murders. As this new movie opens, young couple Jami (Addison Timlin) and Corey (Spencer Treat Clark) are at the drive-in watching The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Jami is disturbed by the film, so they decide to leave and go park. However, they are accosted by a hooded figure and Corey is killed. Jami awakens in the hospital where she is questioned by Chief Tillman (Gary Cole). Having seen the murderer, Jami decides to do some research, and she meets Nick (Travis Tope). Meanwhile, another murder occurs and Lone Wolf Morales (Anthony Anderson) of the Texas Rangers comes to town to help with the investigation. When two more bodies are found, Jami becomes more determined to solve the crime, but how can you solve a murder when the main suspect died years ago?

Right off the bat, The Town That Dreaded Sundown looks as if it is going to be a breath of fresh air which is moving in the right direction. First of all, this movie takes meta to a new level. This is a fictional film which not only acknowledges the real-life event which inspired it, but the previous fictional film which was based on that incident. The opening not only contains newsreel footage from the 40s (although it's difficult to tell if this is authentic or if it was created for the movie), but clips from the 1976 movie. I hadn't expected much from this movie, despite the fact that Blumhouse, who have a pretty good track record, was behind it. But, this wacky opening, and the sheer style shown in the first murder, really got my attention.

However, once they get past this initial idea, Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon don't know what to do with their idea. (I should have known from the fact that they worked on Glee together.) Once Jami leaves the hospital, the movie settles down to become just another slasher movie. In fact, it then begins to look a lot more like a remake, as the killer begins to replicate the murders which were featured in the 1976 movie. The killer kills people, Jami does research, and the police sort of investigate. The movie sort of perks up again with Jami and Nick go visit Charles B. Pierce Jr., who is played by True Blood's Denis O'Hare. Chuck Pierce is an actual person, who appeared in his father's films. (But not The Town That Dreaded Sundown). So, the movie gets very meta again for a moment, and then quickly heads back into slasher town.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown was a very interesting experience. Again, going in, I expected you another remake, so I was pleasantly surprised that something creative was actually happening in the movie. But, that pleasant feeling slowly ebbed away, as the movie turned into yet another post-Scream, semi self-aware slasher movie. There is some graphic violence and one shocking moment, but otherwise the movie is fairly dull. And the revelation of the killer feels unnecessarily complicated. There's no doubt that Gomez-Rejon has created a very slick and stylish film, I just wish that it had the courage to be creative throughout.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown features Edward Herrmann in one of his last roles on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Image Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors (most notably reds) look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is good and works quite well when the killer is walking behind someone, and the level of detail is good, as we can see the texture of the killer's mask. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects show a good amount of separation and we can easily pick out sounds coming from either side of the screen. The surround sound effects really kick in during the action scenes.

The lone extra on The Town That Dreaded Sundown Blu-ray Disc is a TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long