The Town that Dreaded Sundown
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
A masked maniac terrorizes the same small community where a murderer known as the Phantom Killer struck decades earlier.
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★★★½ review by Robin Solsjö Höglund on Letterboxd
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is not a straight remake of the 1976 film with the same name, which was based on true events. It's more of a meta sequel of sorts, and takes place in a world where that 70's movie is screened in Arkansas every year, but someone decides to take up the murders again in a copycat style. And it's not half bad at all!
In the fall and winter of 2013, yet another killer dresses up in a hood and mimics the events of the Phantom killer of Texarkana in the 1940's. We follow Jami who survives the initial attack as she and the town try to make sense of why this is happening again.
I must say that with the style ("conscious" editing, skewed artistic angles and a soft "vaseline" sheen on everything) and the premise (a dark haired young woman is attacked by a taunting killer in a small town who murders everyone around her), this reminded me more than anything of Scream 4 as opposed to the original movie. Hell, the original movie pops up in this left and right, everyone is always watching it, and that adds an interesting meta twist to the proceedings.
There was a great deal I enjoyed about this. It homages the original film in some ways, but still has enough of a style and feel to warrant a watch if you've seen that one. It has some gratuitous violence and some sex scenes, and a killer that is absolutely merciless, plus it actually managed to surprise me once or twice. It's a lot more fast paced than the original. But while it's more consciously "stylish", and looks more like a romantic movie from the 60's (again, that sheen on the camera lens, like it's been drenched in vaseline, why?), it was a pleasant and easygoing movie to watch from start to finish. The characters aren't bad at all and as promised, you do get a feeling of dread throughout the entire town as nobody feels safe when the killer comes lurking.
I think it could have been slightly toned down though, the camera is always jerking around with skewed angles and unusual shots, and while I cannot deny that it gives the film a certain style, I also felt like most of the time it was just unwarranted. Almost the entire movie looks like a dream sequence had by some teenager in her room, not so much a horror movie. There are standout moments which are horror related that I won't spoil, but that leap out of the screen when they happen. That was a positive.
I think I like this and the original movie almost equally, and this definitely takes many steps towards making sure it has its very own style and story, even if people familiar with the original will recognize a great deal of things as well. It is far more violent and graphic, and the style will either be to your liking or not, but at least it's not a completely meaningless rehash of the same thing, and slasher fans should certainly give it a watch, I think it's very solid as a whole.
★★★½ review by Sofa Sinema on Letterboxd
I'm so glad that bright glowing colors have returned to horror cinema and we're not stuck in that monochromatic green or brown filtered dreariness of a decade ago when the Saw films stylistically influenced so many movies. The shaky hand-held approach that was similarly popular is also gone here, and we get some glorious visual style back in the slasher film. Addison Timlin was better in Odd Thomas, but she has a bit of a Jill Schoelen scream teen vibe that I'm digging.
★★★★ review by Daniel Rodriguez on Letterboxd
I'm really surprised that this isn't one of the most talked horror movies of 2014. It has a stunning visual, it offers an excellent alternative to the remake idea and it's bloody and gory as hell! For me it was a brilliant cinematic start for Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and one of the best horror films of 2014, highly recommended!
★★★½ review by Shay Hatten on Letterboxd
A beautifully shot slasher film that keeps you guessing, keeps you entertained, and features a gorgeous and compelling Final Girl in Addison Timlin. Can be nasty, but never feels mean. A prime modern example of the genre, and the meta nature of it (the original film is a movie that the characters in this film watch, and is integral to the plot) is a fun bonus.
Also, it kicks the original film's ass.
★★★½ review by bree1981 on Letterboxd
This is a good old fashioned slasher with a post-modern twist and although i thought i had the killer pegged fairly early the final twist proved me wrong. The script is fairly intelligent for a movie of this type and although the plot sounds pretty confusing in reality it works well.
Based in the small town of TexarKana 60 odd years after a serial killer stalked make out spots killing couples looking for a little privacy, a new copycat killer is now leaving the town in fear once again. Also tied into this is the original movie from 1974 based on these killings, as i said it sounds complicated but is fairly easy to follow.
The cast all do a decent job in there roles with Addison Timlin putting a likeable lead performance and horror stalwart's like Joshua Leonard, Edward Herrmann and Gary Cole popping up in supporting roles. The film also has a few decent set piece's and some good jump scares and the score reminded me of Friday Night Lights which is always a good thing.
Overall, this is an entertaining slasher that for fans of the genre is well worth checking out.
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