The Cinefessions crew loves sharing their opinions on films, but not every movie can get the attention it deserves with a full review. Enter the Cinefessions’ Capsule Reviews. These capsule reviews cover five of the most important aspects of a film, which allow the crew to deliver their opinions on any movie clearly, decisively, and with brevity. These are not our full thoughts on any film, just a highlighting of the major pros and/or cons.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown 1976TitleThe Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)
Director: Charles B. Pierce
Runtime: 90 minutes
The acting in this ranges from passable to terrible. There are a ton of different characters introduced, many of them for a very short stint, and none are great. It feels like they grabbed some locals to do some of the scenes, and it didn’t work in their favor. The most consistent character has to be “Spark Plug”, as he’s called. He is the comic relief of the film, but is arguably the most fun character to watch.

Story & Script
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is told in a quasi-documentary style, with a narrator giving us details of this “based on a true story” tale as it happened back in the 1940s. Basically a serial killer is on the loose in Texarkana, Arkansas, and he is stalking couples at night and killing them. He typically strikes every three weeks, but even that is inconsistent. The story feels like the story of San Francisco’s Zodiac Killer in some ways, but much less interesting. The problem is that the script has way too much dead space, and the director doesn’t tighten these up at all, which means the film moves along at a snail’s pace for no real reason. The dialogue isn’t terrible, but the majority of it is delivered poorly from less than stellar actors.

This is where Sundown falls apart. Charles B. Pierce does a poor job in the editing room, and this is proven many times over. There are a lot of scenes where the dialogue is given too much space; the conversations rarely flow naturally, and instead are filled with awkward pauses that do nothing but slow the movie down. In fact, there are a lot of scenes that could have been cut in half because of the downtime, namely in the murder scenes, but Pierce lets them all play out in full, which is difficult to watch. The other big problem is that Pierce tries to mix this horror film with random scenes of slapstick comedy. It never works, always feels out of place, and hurts the movie a great deal. Uneven and awkward are the two words that constantly sprung to mind while I was watching this.

The Phantom has a cool, creepy mask, but the fact that this story is never really solved makes the whole damn thing feel like a waste of time. There is no real protagonist that we are rooting for, and rarely can a good film be found without a strong protagonist.

I will not be watching this one again. It just isn’t worth the time. Hell, it took me two times to make it through once as it put me asleep about halfway through the first time.

The Verdict
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is an uneven, slow, and awkward film that never comes together to deliver anything worth watching. This did not live up to that cult status I was hoping it would.