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August 18, 2015

DVDFilm + EntertainmentReview | by Francesco Cerniglia


The inhabitants of Texarkana, famous for its horrific past, enjoy a Halloween tradition every year by having screenings of the world famous movie The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976), which depicts the true story of a masked serial killer, known as “the Phantom”, that terrorized their town in the late 40s.

When the Phantom supposedly returns, a troubled high school girl sets off to find out the truth. Is this killer a copycat “wannabe”, a tribute or something more sinister? With danger around every corner, nobody is safe in Texarkana.

Orphaned high school girl Jami (Addison Timlin) has had a rough time trying to build a normal life after her parents died when she was younger, something she blames herself for, leading to her being labelled as “the weird girl”. But when asked out on Halloween by local football jock Corey (Spencer Treat Clark) she jumps at the chance.

In traditional “slasher” fashion the couple decide to park up in the woods, and just as things start to get hot and heavy, the so called Phantom ruins the party. Deciding to spare Jami’s life, she sets out to find out why. By researching deeper in to the original “moonlight murders” and the film that made the town famous, she beings to uncover the truth behind the Phantom’s return.

The film itself is visually flawless, with some beautiful cinematography and elegant extended tracking shots, yet it fails to feel like a horror and resembles more of a murder mystery. It defiantly lacks the creepy atmosphere and suspenseful scenes you would expect in such a film and instead fills the screen with surreal imagery and stunningly simple visuals. As you can imagine, the combination of this and the classic horror setting brings the whole film down.

Though you could argue that this is a sequel to the original 1976 release, as it’s set in modern times and features the original film within the story, it still seems to be more of a remake. The original The Town That Dreaded Sundown was made in the height of classic 70s slashers and is a landmark in traditional horror.


This unique style of remake is very loyal and honourable to the source material, however this version seems to struggle with all the problems of a modern mainstream thriller and a 70s clichéd horror.

Though set in 2013 you could be fooled into thinking the film was set in the 70s with its incredibly retro feel.

The formula here is the definition of the classic slashers with many holes in the storyline and a twist ending that opens more questions than it answers but the acknowledgement of its predecessor seems to recreate what made the Scream franchise popular.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a very unique take on a 70s classic but its lack of fear factor makes it more of a psychological thriller than a horror

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is available on DVD in the UK from August 17th

Charlie Quirke