The Town that Dreaded Sundown (2014)


If you’re seeking out a decent modern slasher then look no further. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s (Director on American Horror Story) semi-remake/re-imagining of The Town that Dreaded Sundown is a solid slasher film reminiscent of the classic period of 70s and 80’s slash n’ hack fests!


The Town that Dreaded Sundown is not a direct remake of the 1976 film of the same name that delved into the brutal slaying’s that took place in 1946 Arkansas. Gomez-Rejon completely does his own thing, updating the story for modern horror goers while bringing in a clever and refreshing meta-narrative that separates it from the generic remake it could have become if fallen into the wrong hands.


In 2014 Sundown (that takes place in 2013!), 1976 Sundown is merely a movie adaptation of the true and tragic events that darkened the little Texan town of Texarkana back in the 1940s. The film is used by police officers as evidence in order to decipher a pattern between the original murders, the film depiction and the horrific crimes that are taking place in 2013. Having authority so active in a slasher is atypical as normally they ignore the warnings of the heroine and end up sliced and diced by the masked killer. The Town that Dreaded Sundown has a strong sense of community running through it with the safety of others being integral.


The use of clips of the murder scenes from 1976 Sundown inserted in with footage from the current film pays a fantastic homage to the source material while emphasizing the copycat killer angle and the impact of the infamous crimes on Texarkana. There’s a strong sense of the film’s legacy, the clips from 76′ are grainy while modern Sundown is stylish and polished, highlighting the passage of time and how advanced filmmaking has become on a technical level since the 70’s. We even meet Charles B. Pierece Jr (played by American Horror favourite Denis O’ Hare), the fictional version of the son of original director Charles B. Pierce in order to gain an insight into the behind-the-scenes of the film and theories into the identity of the 1946 murderer, breaking the fourth wall.


1976 Sundown is screened on Halloween at the drive-in movie theatre despite protests from the town’s religious figure Reverend Cartwright (the late Edward Hermann) with claims of it being a ‘Godless film’. The drive-in movie setting is the first element that aesthetically brings in a nostalgic factor to the film, already making the slasher fan comfortably at home. Its there we meet our heroine Jami (Addison Timlin) who sneaks off with love interest Corey (Spencer Treat Clark) to the former spot known as ‘Lovers Lane’, they are attacked by an ambiguous figure wearing a sack over his head with small holes where the eyes are meant to be (early inspiration for Jason Voorhees a la Friday the 13th: Part 2 maybe?). Corey is brutally slain in a scene of high octane violence. With Corey coming in as victim number one, this killer wants to let the town know he has returned after 65 years. The Phantom has some unfinished business with the inhabitants of Texarkana and his sights now set on Jami!


Addison Timlin plays Jami as the modern final girl with classic qualities. She’s reminiscent of a Sidney Prescott (Scream 1-4) type with a tragic back-story vital to the impact of the Phantom’s reign of terror. She’s relentless and resourceful, aiding the police in their investigation and determined to bring the perpetrator of these violent crimes to justice. Timlin’s performance carries the film well keeping the audience firmly on her side. There’s a subversion on the final girl theory that she must remain virginal in order to survive and the twist that comes with it. However there’s plenty of sex equals death moments to keep things a certain degree of traditional.


The violence is fast paced and grizzly providing a squirmworthy viewing experience and shocking death scenes. The Phantom speaks sinisterly and is cruel and torturous with his aimless killings, the most brutal being his attack on a teenage interracial gay couple, most likely producer Ryan Murphy’s influence. The scene is quite profound acting as a metaphor for the intolerance of sexuality combined with race in a predominantly religious town. The scene in particular aids Sundown to stand out from the shallow slashers out there with nothing interesting to offer whereas Murphy is never afraid to push the boundaries when it comes to the taboo. The final showdown and killer reveal could have incorporated more depth, feeling too rushed but the outcome works well and is unexpected.

The Town that Dreaded Sundown (2014) is daring, nostalgic while keeping things modern and challenging.  Its slashertastic and one of the better remakes out there that can be appreciated by fans new and old!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

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