When I was little I asked my mother what her favorite horror films were (it was a genre we both shared a love for). She cited The Town That Dreaded Sundown The Car. In the last 30 years of my life I’ve seen both a few times, but didn’t share the same amount of love for either film. However, I still remember us nabbing the VHS copy from the video store when they agreed to sell it for $10.
I was stoked for this remake. It had buzz ala The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, which I adore more than the original (but I saw the remake first). However, nothing ever came of this film, and it seemed to die. Then, suddenly, I saw reviews popping up online and the film got released on all digital formats for purchase.
If you want absolutely no spoilers for this film, then please skip to the final paragraph. I’m only going to describe the opening, but to some this may feel like a spoiler, and I personally went in not knowing anything, but feel that it’s an important aspect of the film. So note that a minor spoiler follows.
Sixty-five years after a masked serial killer terrorized the small town of Texarkana, new murders begin to happen. The film opens with a couple at a screening of the original film, which was loosely based on a true serial killer. The girl decides she can’t handle the movie, and they agree to go somewhere a little more private. This is when “The Phantom” shows up, and our little lady goes running though the woods. Splices of the original film pop up throughout the film. This is a crazy notion, but it works. She makes it back to the drive-in screen, where she crawls and screams for help. It is a very “Scream 2 opening”.
Speaking of the Scream series, The Town That Dread Sundown is similar in terms of how meta the whole thing is. As the film continued, I could see it and Scream 2 lining up in style, but Sundown cuts the humor, and it really works. There’s a few other little homages sprinkled in, including throwbacks to the original, Scream and My Bloody Valentine.
Blood and boobs is almost always required in a slasher film, and The Town That Dreaded Sundown offers a ton of blood. One problem I had with the blood, though, is that it appears orange in one scene, and then, as the camera shifts, it changes to a red color; the inconsistency was bothersome. Oh, there’s also a naked blonde girl switching from the cowgirl position to reverse cowgirl, and wow, is it impressive!
The most surprising aspect is that this is director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s first film. There are some great shots, excellent tension is built up in the killer’s bits, and because the script is so solid, he’s able to deliver a thriller inside the world of this horror film. Gomez-Rejon chooses to mix the new scenes with shots from the original film, and these normally wouldn’t work, but somehow do here. It is a ballsy choice that pays off.
Addison Timlin stars as Jami, our final girl if you will. She was recently in Odd Thomas, which is also recommend. She’s cute, and definitely has some solid acting chops. Outside of her, I didn’t recognize anyone except Anthony Anderson. Anderson’s character works because he is toned down from what we normally get from Anderson as an actor.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is how you do a sequel/remake/reboot. It’s all three of those things rolled into one package, and while it adds to the mythos that come before it, it also pays homage to the original film and the true events that took place. I wish I had seen this before putting up my year-end best-of list because it would have easily been in my top three. It’s a shame that this hasn’t gotten a home video release yet because this film would do really well if more people had access to it. Though no DVD or Blu-ray is available right now, Sundown can be purchased (there are no rental options, physical or VOD) right now on Amazon or Vudu for around $10, which is a steal.
Chris was raised on horror films, which gave him a deep love for the genre, especially its most quirky and offbeat titles (like A Nightmare on Elm Street 2). This love quickly turned into an obsession for cinema in 1997, when he decided he needed to see every major theatrical release. Video games (JRPGs), reading (anything but fantasy), and reality television (Survivor) are just some of his other passions. He’s been with Cinefessions since 2013, and has been writing reviews all over the internet for the past twelve years.