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A yakuza enforcer is ordered to secretly drive his beloved colleague to be assassinated. But when the colleague unceremoniously disappears en route, the trip that follows is a twisted, surreal and horrifying experience.
Set in the late 40's the residents of Texarkana, Texas are left terrorized by a mysterious hooded killer who is stalking victims during the evening and leaving the local police at a loss. Written by
In the sheriff's office, there are some shots of the bulletin board in the background. On the board is the FBI's Wanted Poster for Frank Morris, following his escape from USP Alcatraz. The Alcatraz escape took place in June of 1962, sixteen years after the events in the film. See more »
Patrolman A.C. Benson:
What the hell is wrong with you, boy? You try that again and the Supreme Court of the United States ain't gonna be able to save your ass!
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The Town That Dreaded Sundown achieves at a style of horror filmmaking films of the same genre don't even consider anymore; documentarian style. I'm not talking low budget, shaky camera. I'm talking haunting narration, no name casts, a well developed story, and the perfect mixture of murders as well as crime-drama.
This all feels like an episode of CSI, only better, more developed, and more entertaining. The film is based off the real murders that occurred in the mid-forties in Texarkana, Arkansas. The killer wore a white sheet with two little holes for eyes. He was dubbed "The Phantom Killer" and went on to kill five people and attack three of them. To this day, he has never been caught. Being that the film dates back to 1976, it states that "today, he still lurks the streets of Texarkana, Arkansas." Obviously, in 2012, he's most likely long-gone dead. Or is he? The age of the killer in the film, like in the real life case, are very unclear. He is seen to be a very tall man, modestly built, and casually dressed, despite the mask. Never do we see anything we could identify in a police lineup. It's as vague and as ordinary as the man in the real life case.
The film also packs in some excellent, chilling narrations from Vern Stierman, a popular voice in film. His narration is a main contribution to why the film plays like a documentary. The way he narrates the events, announces the character's occupations, etc doesn't feel like a lazy way at character development as much as it feels like a well conducted docudrama.
In the suspense field, the film is pursued with knowledge, surreality, and success. We get the dark, eerie atmosphere of the setting in the mid hours of the night, combined with some fantastic chords in the music. The chords don't serve as much as a jump scare that makes you laugh at yourself for becoming bait, but it offers substance and a murder to go along with it. It's not simple trickery like we're so used to.
I normally don't like when films try to do one too many things. This one tries to do two things and is successful at both; be a horror film as well as a crime-drama. Since the film is going for more of a docudrama atmosphere, both feel well developed and fitting, rather than the film immediately changing what it is trying to be halfway through. It's not a movie that had ambition to be a horror film, but then got sidetracked in the second or third act.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a creepy horror film and an effective crime-drama, never feeling like it is insisting upon itself on either level. When you think about it, how many horror films succeed at pulling off two genres that don't totally go hand in hand? Only one comes to mind instantly.
Starring: Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine, and Dawn Wells. Charles B. Pierce.
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