The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

The Town That Dreaded Sund0wn is a “spiritual successor” (sequel) to the 1976 cult film of the same name, immediately bringing Scre4m to mind in its meta-direction and narrative. A local drive-in theater shows the original film every year, presumably around Halloween, about the horrible real-life events of The Phantom killer in the small town of Texarkana. Similar to its status in real life, the 1976 picture has gained cult status (teenagers walk around with huge poster’d tee shirts at the screening). 

Jami Lerner and Corey Holland are at the aforementioned screening. Lerner has a troubled past and Corey, noticing she’s not enjoying the show, takes her in his car and they go for a drive. A new Phantom, a copy-cat, mimicking the murders of the original, appears and begins slaughtering townspeople (his catch phrase a husky “Make them remember”). What ensues is an unoriginal but surprisingly competent slasher film that sheds typical genre conventions by taking a serious approach as opposed to the cheese-schlock of many beloved slasher films (which I personally love as well).

Addison Timlin as the protagonist Jami gives a legitimately solid, grounded, and embracing performance, anchoring the audience into the film and forcing investment. She gives it her all, and rightfully so, treating Sundown as a film worthy of an honest performance instead of “just another horror flick.” Several scenes are particularly affecting, primarily an exchange with a therapist in which the camera lingers on Jami’s tormented face.

The plot itself drives along at a nice click, hitting many of the expected notes, riding firmly on the back of Craven’s Scre4m in its meta-meta approach. Ultimately the notes ring true; horror aficionados as well as fans of a solid thriller will be pleased – For its budget it’s nicely framed, lit, shot, and acted, giving the thrills and gore an extra pop and each death a bit of weight strung to it. Several of the characters here are more than just knife fodder. The Town That Dreaded Sundown doesn’t do anything new (and sometimes spins its wheels in well-worn tracks) but it does what it says on the tin, and does it well. Find it streaming now on Netflix.

★★★½

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