Movie Review - The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)
The Town that Dreaded Sundown (2014) is a sort of meta-sequel to the original 1976 film of the same name. Much like Scream or even The Human Centipede II, the previous work in the series is viewed as a film within a film. It's an extremely difficult conceit to sell, but director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon manages to make it look effortless. And this is not only an amazing sequel, it was by far the best slasher film of 2014. In fact, had I only seen this film earlier it would have definitely made my 'Best of the Year' list. The movie is a brilliant homage to both the source material and to the genre. The film is currently available on iTunes, and I highly recommend you check this one out, especially if you're a fan of the classic slasher-films of the late 70's and early 80's.
In 1946, in the town of Texarkana, a man known only as the Phantom Killer murdered more than 5 people before disappearing. He was never apprehended. In 1976, Charles B. Pierce made a film chronicling the events, with some minor artistic license, called The Town that Dreaded Sundown. The film is credited with being one of the earliest slasher films, released two years after Black Christmas and two years prior to Halloween. It's equal parts traditional horror movie and faux-documentary, and the combination provided for uneven results. The 2014 sequel drops the documentary angle and instead doubles down on the horror. Almost seventy years later than the actual murders and more than thirty years since the release of the film they inspired, the town of Texarkana is again plunged into terror as the murders begin again. Murders that mirror the original kills almost identically, and it seems every one has a theory on who is responsible.
The cast is absolutely phenomenal. Addison Timlin (Odd Thomas) is stellar in the lead role. She gives Jami a naivety that is quickly smashed to pieces before giving way to a woman willing to do anything that it takes to survive. Spencer Treat Clark (The Last House on the Left) is as charismatic as ever, even for the short time he is on screen. And the uber-talented Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project) is so warm and comforting, you feel completely disarmed by him. Add Gary Cole's (Office Space) creepy Chief Deputy Tillman into the mix, and you have yourself a strong ensemble easily able to carry the narrative.
Both of the writers, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Earl E. Smith, and director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon deserves a ton of credit here, as the film keeps you guessing until the very last second. I also applaud the use of the original movie as a film within a film, as opposed to just making a typical sequel. The film also looks fantastic. The vibrant color palette and masterful manipulation of light and dark sets the perfect tone for the film, and provides a stark contrast to the washed out look of the 1976 movie. But more than all of that, and I cannot stress this enough: this movie is so much fun. I wish I had gotten the opportunity to see it in theaters with an audience. As I said, the film is available on iTunes this is one that you don't want to miss. Cheers.
- Leo Francis