Sunday, October 19, 2014

Horror Thoughts ‘14—The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) *

R, 86 min.
Director: Charles B. Pierce
Writer: Earl E. Smith
Starring: Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine, Jimmy Clem, Jim Citty, Charles B. Pierce, Robert Aquino, Dawn Wells

The original 1976 version of “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” is so bad I really don’t want to talk about it much. It’s an indie that came out a couple of years before John Carpenter’s original “Halloween”. I mention the Carpenter film because they both focus on serial killers who terrorize a small town. Both killers wear fairly non-descript masks and breathe heavily under them. I don’t recall much about Carpenter’s inspiration for “Halloween”, but I would find it hard to believe that “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” didn’t play some part. The killer’s are too similar and the sound effects of each film’s killer sounds as if they came from the same source.

“The Town That Dreaded Sundown” is supposedly based on a true story. It takes place in Texarkana, Arkansas and Texas. The events reportedly took place in the late 40s, just as the nation was beginning to recover from the losses of World War II. I don’t know if the movie is stylized to evoke the era or just very poorly produced.  It has a voice over narration that is just terrible. There is a goofy comic relief character played by the film’s director that seems to want to be in a different movie—one that isn’t about a real life serial killer. The killings are quite brutal, but there is one particularly awkward killing involving a trombone. The sets look like sets, and any time it is raining—which is quite frequently—you can see the sprinkler streams that are creating the effect.

A remake/sequel of the film was released this past weekend. Directed by frequent “American Horror Story” director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, the story takes place 65-years after those in the original film, when a copycat killer begins killing in the same style in Texarkana once again. Denis O’Hare even plays the son of the original film’s director. Hopefully, it will be worthwhile, but save yourself the trouble of seeing the original. I’m sure any summary of events at the start of the new film will suffice.

Should you hate yourself enough, you can watch the movie for free below.

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