February 6, 2015

Movie Review: The Town that Dreaded Sundown (2014)

The Town that Dreaded Sundown, The Town that Dreaded Sundown. Has a ring to it, doesn't it? It is one of those titles that stuck in my head the first time I heard it. That is sat, every once in awhile floating to the surface to remind me that it was there. It was a long time before I got to see it, yes, it was released back in 1976, but it took awhile for a release to find its way into my possession and longer still until I got to watch. As it turns out, I did not like it as much as I thought I was going to, but it had some really good stuff. Now we are faced with a remake, which bypassed a big theatrical release. That cannot be good, can it?

I have to admit, considering my mostly lukewarm reaction to the original, I was not exactly anticipating that this would be all that good. As it turns out, I needn't have been so worried. This new take on The Town that Dreaded Sundown proved to be pretty awesome. Yes, I know how silly that sounds to read, but I really liked this. It is a legitimately good film that should not be overlooked as just another remake. For one thing, it isn't. Much like how the recent Evil Dead film was not remake, this isn't either. To take it a step further, how they approached making this was really quite clever.

The original film played out a little like a docudrama, a fictionalized film that was meant to approximate an actual event, try to make sense of senseless killing. The fact that the real murders have gone unsolved is a little unsettling. Anyway, this new film is not so much a remake as it is a metafilm that uses the original as part of the plot, not unlike The Human Centipede II.

In Texarkana, the people live with the spectre of the unsolved murders from the 1940's. The 1976 movie was a regular reminder to the older townsfolk, and a thrill for the teenagers. Every year the movie would be played at drive ins where teens would gather for thrills and laughs. This year would turn out to be something different. One of the young couples leaves the movie a little early to go spend some time alone. They head out to what was once Lover's Lane (immortalized in the movie with an early kill).

While the couple begin to get intimate, a figure materializes along the tree line, a man wearing a sack hood, not unlike the Phantom killer from the movie. Before you know it, he is breaking the passenger side window of the car and ordering them out. What happens next is not so nice, and very reminiscent of the movie.

The girl, Jami (Addison Timlin), survives. Now the police are on the case and they have to figure out who this killer is. Bodies begin to mount and the police do not seem to be getting any closer. Jami feels a connection and begins to investigate the history of the Phantom killer herself. What will she find?

This new Town that Dreaded Sundown has a meta element with how it synchs with the original film, which itself is used in the plot. It really is quite clever how they mirror each other and build off each other. It may not be the first to do such a thing, but the execution is rather classy. It builds interest in the plot, which is spiced with some nicely brutal killings, and is balanced with interesting characters. It is one of the more well balanced slasher offerings I have seen lately.

The movie was directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and was his first feature film (he has directed numerous episodes of Glee and American Horror Story). He worked from a screenplay by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who also wrote Carrie (2013 edition). They have made a really nice looking film. A lot of credit needs to go to Director of Photography Michael Goi. Seriously, this movie is shot beautifully.

I have to say, The Town that Dreaded Sundown is a fantastic update/reboot of the original. It builds atmosphere, doesn't go for the in your face jump scare approach. It will hold your attention and does not overstay its welcome. Does it use some old school slasher tropes? Sure. It is hard to get away from that completely, but they well executed and do not detract from the overall effectiveness of the movie. This is seriously a good horror film.

Highly Recommended.

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Sky said...

Full agreement! I was so surprised by this film. The original had moments, but overall is pretty damn bad. This one rights all the wrongs and actually makes the original required viewing to fully enjoy. For those who havent seen the original, see it first. The payoff is quite nice.

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