The Town That Dreaded Sundown Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Metrodome Distribution
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasca, Earl E. Smith
2014, 86 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on August 17th 2015
Addison Timlin as Jami
Veronica Cartwright as Lillian
Anthony Anderson as Lone Wolf Morales
Travis Tope as Nick
'Sex equals death, okay?' Thanks, Randy from Scream! Rarely has the number one rule of horror survival been so at the forefront as it is in The Town That Dreaded Sundown. a retro slasher remake, it sees a brutal serial killer violently offing the horny locals of small town Texarkana. Okay, maybe the theme has been at the forefront before (the first time it was made, in 1976, for example) but not so-on-the-nose as it is here. It'd make a great double bill with It Follows or Cherry Falls.
The film cleverly establishes audience trust by not only acknowledging the original movie early on, but also working it into its plot. Here The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a film that the characters can watch (employing actual clips from the 1976 cult classic), just as Martin watches The Human Centipede over and over again in The Human Centipede II. It's better than that, though. Here it serves as a true crime movie – an account of events which actually happened and still resound in Texarkana today. Even more so when the masked killer rears his (presumably) ugly head again and resumes his bloody killing spree. And yes, the bit with the trombone is back.
Smart and playful, it's like a version of Scream without the smug self-awareness; the My Bloody Valentine remake done right. Where so many slasher movies stick us with their stupid kids and their banal behaviour, The Town That Dreaded Sundown lets us spend more time with the adults – the police force, concerned relatives and local authority figures. The kids still pop up when it’s time for a couple of them to get killed off (and one of them is even our main character) but the more mature cast gives this slasher film a texture lacking from so many others. It helps, of course, that the adults are played by the likes of Gary Cole, Denis O'Hare and Anthony Anderson. The latter is a particularly nice surprise, having mostly disappeared in recent years. It's good to see him no longer playing the comic relief, even if he's not given a great deal to do here.
Where it doesn't do so well is in the final quarter, where the mystery must be solved and the killer is unmasked. Here it veers too deeply into Scream territory, even if you won't necessarily guess the killer's identity. In a film which has thus far been inventive and exciting, it's disappointing that it should descend into such a rote final act. Still, that's not enough to spoil everything which has come before and after, and it's not particularly bad – it just feels at odds with everything else.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a quirky, visually compelling and frequently inventive little number with a distinctly European flavour to it. Remade but not rehashed, this is one of the good ones.