Horror. Worldview. Faith.

The Town that Dreaded Sundown – Review

The Town that Dreaded Sundown – Review

Sep 26, 2010

reviewed by hallo
directed by Charles B. Pierce, 1976

The Town that Dreaded Sundown had one of those classic VHS tape box covers that made you want to grab it instantly in the old movie rental locations – before the Blockbusters of the world drove all the small town rental stores out of business (interestingly, Blockbuster is now being driven out of business by Netflix and others).   After viewing the film from my “Movie Station” location in east TN, I actually ended up purchasing the movie several years later on VHS.  Not so much because it was a great movie, but because I just simply could not believe it was on sale!  I’m glad I did as the movie has still not been released on DVD and VHS copies are in the $50 range to purchase.

Having said that, the film has all the elements of a great horror movie but poorly delivers on almost all of them.  There is the hooded serial killer, the unsolved mystery of the murders, the Texas Ranger who is brought in to solve the crimes, and the teenagers who meet their doom in some rather bizarre ways.  The movie follows the feel of an old western documentary, complete with the super cheesy voice-over narration of what is happening in the small, blue-collar town of Texarcana in the year 1946.  Unfortunately, the acting is over the top, the comedic element is overly and annoyingly used, and some of the kill scenes leave you scratching your head.  For example, at one point the “phantom” attaches a knife to the end of a trombone and plays a little tune while stabbing his helpless victim.

On the other hand, The Town that Dreaded Sundown has some positive aspects as well, not the least of which is one super awesome movie title.  The phantom does spook you out in more than one scene and his appearance in the hood is rather creepy; so much so that I believe Steve Miner ripped off the look for Jason Vorhees in Friday the 13th part 2.  And it is hard not to like veteran actor Ben Johnson playing the determined Texas Ranger J.D. Morales, which is a Texas name if I ever heard of one.  So, this movie is one I recommended for its somewhat unique approach and feel, but I can’t give it high marks on quality and longevity.  The movie certainly does belong back in its own time.

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