October 24, 2014

VOD Review: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2561546/
If there's any Horror movie that was begging to be remade, it was the 1976 docudrama, The Town That Dreaded Sundown; and the fact that it played more like a docudrama, instead of a pure Horror movie, is exactly why it was so ripe for the remake treatment.

The 1976 movie is based loosely on The Moonlight Murders; a series of real-life murders that took place in Texarkana in 1946, which were carried out by a mysterious, hooded killer dubbed The Phantom Killer.

It went on to become a Cult Classic to Horror fans, mainly due to the "true" nature of its story, and its gritty, effective kill scenes.


The whole "killer wearing a sack on his head" thing was pretty effective too, making The Phantom Killer quite an imposing movie maniac. It was so effective that Jason Voorhees wore the same kind of sack on his head, five years later in F13th Part 2.

As effective as the Horror aspects of the original film may be, especially the kill scenes, the rest of the movie was not quite as effective; for some reason, the director thought it would be a good idea to fill in the gaps between the horrific scenes with wacky, almost slapstick comedy scenes... which made the movie as a whole play like a silly, uneven mess.

We're happy to report that this remake, while having a few odd quirks of its own, is a far better Horror effort than was the original, and we found ourselves liking way more, albeit on an entirely different level.

It's been 65 years since The Phantom Killer prowled the streets of Texarkana, killing young lovers, and terrorizing the entire town in the process. Now, the Moonlight Murders have begun again, which instantly tells us that that The Phantom Killer is like 90-years-old now, and that he's still pissed off; or that there's a copycat out there biting off of his style. Either way, he's back.

HE'S BACK, AND HE'S RED!
The Phantom starts his new killing spree with a young couple who are making out in a car (of course), where he kills the guy, while making his QT girlfriend (Jami) listen to the whole thing. Terrified, and desperate to survive, Jami makes a run for it, but is quickly caught again by The Phantom. He lets her live, with that caveat that she "make them remember" someone named Mary. Who in the hell this Mary is, or why anyone needs to remember her, is beyond us, but it's clearly important enough for The Phantom to kill over.

WHAT'S WITH THE EYE?
Jami relays his foreboding message to the Police, which she figures makes her safe from his wrath, but as the bodies begin to pile up all over Texarkana, it becomes apparent to her that she's going to have to take matters into her own hands if shes going to survive. From this point on, Jami gets her Nancy Drew on, and tries to unravel the mystery of The Phantom Killer, before it's too late.

WHO'S MARY, SHE SAID, AND FROWNED IN HER SPECIAL WAY...
Who is The Phantom Killer? Why is he killing again, 65 years after he stopped killing in the first place? And will Jami ever get naked, and rub oil all over her body survive his murderous rage? Far be it from us to spoil things for you here, but suffice it to say that there will most likely be a movie titled The Town That Downright Feared Sunrise, somewhere in our VOD future.

THIS IS NOT THE "RUSTY TROMBONE" THAT THESE TWO WERE HOPING FOR.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is, at least to us, one remake that is a vast improvement over the original; it's mean, lean, nasty, bloody, and it filled us with the same dread that it advertises in its title... at least for the most part, it did.

Producer Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story) and director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon have given us a stylish slasher flick for the new millennium, that works incredibly well, despite its own stylish trappings; it definitely feels like it's a bit style over substance at times, but it's also a well-produced movie that has one hell of a hook.

The movie's killer, The Phantom Killer, is a ruthless and imposing force, who at times was reminiscent of a pissed-off Jason Voorhees, and we loved every minute of it. The way that he tore through people with such energy and mean-spirited determination was really fun. This new incarnation of The Phantom Killer felt every bit as iconic as his 1976 counterpart did.

This movie also boasts one hell of a cast. From the super QT Final Girl, Addison Timlin, to the top-notch character guys like Anthony Anderson, Gary Cole, Dennis O'Hare, and Edward Hermann... it's even got Lambert form Alien in it! This movie is full of great actors giving fun performances.which we thought were all pretty solid. I mean, how can you not love any movie in which Anthony Anderson plays a Texas Ranger named Lone Wolf Morales? That's just brilliant, and on many different levels.

And although most of you may not know his name, this was one of the last movies that prolific character actor Ed Lauter worked on before his death; you really couldn't turn on a TV in the 70's or 80's (or 90's, for that matter) without seeing his face in something. We were genuinely sad to learn of his passing.

R.I.P OLD FRIEND, AND THANKS FOR ALL OF YOUR GOOD WORK.
This movie's visual style and tone are all over the place, which make it both an atmospheric success, and a bit of an odd duck. I can't remember where I read it, but someone wrote something to the effect of "The Town That Dreaded Sundown feels more like a showcase for director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's unique visual style at times, than it does a straight-forward Horror movie" I may be paraphrasing, but that comment is dead-on. 

Town is very flashy and different, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's most definitely a distracting one; we caught ourselves more than once remarking on what was happening visually, as opposed to getting lost in the world that the story was trying so hard to establish.

"SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHUT UP!"
We found The Phantom Killer's motivation for killing again to be a bit weak, as we were expecting it to have more of a direct cause and effect relationship with the original film.

In this regard, we really want to make a comparison between Town and another, more light-hearted slasher flick, as they both share the same sort of "aesthetic" when it comes to their featured killers, but that would be giving too much away.

Just know that at times, Town felt like a lighter movie; not that it ever went for laughs of silliness, but it just felt... lighter. Maybe not lighter, but comfier?

It's really hard to explain without spoiling things.

ANY MOVIE STARRING THESE TWO IS BOUND TO BE COMFY THOUGH.
This one was all sorts of bloody and violent, with The Phantom Killer angrily stabbing the shit out of all kinds of people. He also shoots the shit out of them. The famous "trombone scene" is even present in this remake, though it's not the best kill scene by a long shot.

This is one bloody, violent affair.

MOST INGENIOUS USE OF A HEAD, EVER.
We get one pretty explicit sex scene featuring a blonde QT and her Marine boyfriend, but Addison Timlin's sex scene, by comparison, was a shadowy, clothed affair. Also, Gary Cole gets a beejer, which he definitely deserves. Also, two gay kids discuss giving each other a beejer, and jerking each other off, but that never comes to fruition either.

The sexual content was there, but most of it was more suggestive than it was explicit.

...AND BEER MAKES IT THE PERFECT THREESOME.
Some legends never die. Also, Texarkana is a shitty place to live, if you like living.

ALSO, IT WAS REALLY GREAT TO SEE THIS TITLE CARD POP UP ON SCREEN FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 16 YEARS.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a dynamic, stylish, atmospheric movie, that while being quite effective, at times feels like a Halloween episode of Glee (sans musical numbers.) We liked it, but we wish that it had been just a bit more straightforward with the Horror, and avoided the flashy quirk of the average Ryan Murphy project; because that style distracted from the substance at times.

Artistic flourishes aside though, this movie does offer plenty of mean, lean slasher goodness, and one of the most imposing on-screen killers that we've seen all year. It's definitely worthy of your rental $$$, so check it out.

B

The Town that Dreaded Sundown is available now on VOD.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00OLI8FIQ/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00OLI8FIQ&linkCode=as2&tag=thehorclu0a-20&linkId=L7YLIJCZZE2P2USL

You know what else is distracting, but thoroughly enjoyable? Addison Timlin, that's what. Who. See, she's so distracting, that our grammar went and got all wonky on us!

2 comments :

  1. Hooray for Ed Lauter. I always liked his performances. Must have seen him in close to a 100 projects.

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    1. Same here, Phil. A face we grew up on.

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