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The Town That Dreaded Sundown
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Odd Docu-Drama Horror variation

Author: Joe Stemme from United States
13 July 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

For years, I had heard about THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN as one of those indescribably scary low-budget films that seem to disappear all too frequently into relative obscurity. It's never been released on DVD, and it's TV showings are few. Paradoxically, the story within the film also plays upon those self-same virtues of unseen mystery.

"Based on a true story" (are there more frequently misleading words written on film credits?), the film is very much done as a police procedural with some striking moments of slasher stylistics (the trombone sequence in particular). Ben Johnson plays a legendary 'big city' cop brought in to clean up the small-town mess, and the story unfolds in an almost documentary-like form, complete with Narration.

Director Charles B. Pierce (of the BOGGY CREEK films) non-style style works in a curious way that slicker films can't match. Dawn Wells and Andrew Prine provide pro support for what is largely an amateur cast (again, not a bad thing here). The coda to the film is uniquely Pierce. That's all I'll say. That the film doesn't quite live up to the legend isn't surprising, but, in an odd way, that adds to the allure.

Grindhouse Fest.

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Absolutely Scary!

Author: ambushbug-2 from United States
19 August 2006

I was this movie when I was a kid and it sticks with me to this day. I'm a big fan of horror movies, but very few actually give me the creeps. The only ones I can think of are Halloween, The Exorcist, and the scene in Salems Lot where the little vampire is scratching on his brothers window. This one ranks right up there with those! I would love to find a version of it on DVD. It use to run regularly on TBS, but I haven't seen it on in years. If your a fan of horror movies you will love this one. It's dark, and of course it's a little dated, but still creepy. Some of the most suspenseful scenes you will find. And it doesn't hurt that it's based on a true story. It's possible the real killer could still be a live to this day! Glad I don't live in Texas!

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Not your typical serial killer movie *POTENTIAL SPOILERS*

Author: arthurclay from Italy
29 September 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

*POTENTIAL SPOILERS* Man oh man this one was a real piece of work and I mean that in a good way if that is possible. Based on the exploits of the "Phantom Killer" in Texarkana, Texas. All I can say is he was one demented, sick wacko. Highly intelligent, methodical, flawlessly careful, strong as an ox, and totally fearless. Anyone who watches serial killer movies will find this one interesting if not albeit entertaining. I don't know if I would watch it twice as it is disturbing to say the least. He thoroughly enjoys what he does and that is mutilating and killing people. The subject of one of the largest law enforcement manhunts in U.S. history, he goes around wacking civilians out in the same town right under their noses and they can't even slow him down much less stop him or identify him. I'm just glad I don't live in that town you could be borrowing sugar from this fella even today.

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Confusing blend of tones

Author: Geoffrey Maher from Palatine, IL
23 July 2004

I don't know what to think about this movie. I mean, there is an absolutely harrowing scene where a girl is tied to a tree and then stabbed with a knife the killer ties to the end of the girl's own trombone; then maybe a few minutes later a ridiculous car chase takes place that ends with the dumb, comic relief cop of the movie jumping Dukes of Hazzard style over other cars to land in a swamp. The comic relief stuff did not work in this movie at all. Which was a shame, because the killer's attacks were scary (Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island is one of the victims, and she played it pretty well!). The movie switched from serious horror and police procedure to loopy, small town goofiness. It didn't make much sense. Andrew Prine as the deputy sheriff was good, though. Ben Johnson reminded me of Jackie Gleason in Smokey and the Bandit too much. All in all, I'd say check it out for some decent horror elements, just ignore some of the more irritating stuff. 5/10

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Not a Great Movie, But It Brings Back Memories

Author: tramps1 from Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada
8 July 2003

The first time I saw this movie was in a drive-in theater in the summer of 1976. I was 8 years old and I went with my cousin. We were staying at a cabin at a lake which is open for camping every summer. I don't think I was mature enough to watch a horror movie like this, but I believe this movie planted a seed in me for a love of horror movies. I remember having a very hard time falling asleep that night thinking that there was a killer lurking outside the cabin. The thing that stuck in my mind was that it was based on a true story and the commentary in the film made it feel like a documentary.

I watched this movie again for the second time just weeks ago, and I can see how a young mind could be captivated with this film. The hackles still raised on the back of my neck during some of the suspenseful scenes. The acting is second rate and by today's standards in filmmaking, the movie is not very good. The comedy elements in the movie just don't mesh with the realism portrayed in the commentary and the dramatic scenes with the killer. Although, in watching the movie again, it brought back memories of the good old days.

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Real case information

Author: bjmilhist from United States
6 June 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Spoiler: My comments will refer to the real case upon which this film is based. The events depicted in the film actually happened in Texarkana, TX from February 23, 1946 until May 4,1946. An unknown serial killer murdered five individuals and wounded three other individuals severely. The film is accurate as to the murders themselves. The surviving witnesses described the killer as a powerful man, whose face was concealed by a flour sack. The end of the film is fiction. The killer was never chased into the swamp. However, it is true that the killer was never identified. In fact, the killer may have claimed a sixth murder victim, a tramp's body was found near the railroad track in Texarkana, and he had been stabbed to death. Once again, the murder was never solved. The actual Texas Ranger involved in the case was Captain M. T. Gonzaullas, known as the "Lone Wolf", a book about his career exists. For additional information about the case itself, please see Michael Newton's book, The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, pp. 160-161.

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A well-rounded thriller,that has aged pretty-well.

Author: Brandon Middleton ( from Jackson TN.
10 April 2000

While this film has aged some,it has a rough-and-grainyness and a sorta "Documentation" feel that is effective.A little-known director I've long admired,Mr.Charles Pierce also directed "The legend of the Boggey-Creek Monster",and some little known Westerens and some more thrillers.I also enjoyed those,mainly because I grew-up near Shreveeport La.,and have heard tales about the Boggey-Creek monster for sometime since I was young.

Years ago,when I first discovered the horror genre,I came across a little-known thriller called "The town that Dreaded Sundown". What fascinated me about it was it's look and the Phantom Killer stuck on the cover was an image of interest to a young boy that was only six-years-old,and whose viewing habbits consisted of watching episodes of "The Transformers" on TV and fantasy/kid shows like "Laybrinth".Now nothing wrong with that;To this day I'm a big Jennifer Connelly fan(a solid,underrated actress),and still a loveable Trans-Fan,but Horror had a big part of my growing-up.

Getting-back to the film,It's a story that concerns a real-life masked killer nick-named "The Phantom".Early on,the narrarator tells a small prologue about the towns history,and then the first beating on a couple takes place on a lonely road in Texarcanna.Now,the impact of the film is that things like this didn't happen back then,and as the story un-folds,we see the town sulk into suspetion and terror as two lawman hunt-down the killer.

Two more separate murder sequences'happen,and soon the police are on search for the Phantom Killer,and soon things un-fold more.Though,not always successful;The director himself(Charles B.Pierce)takes-on the task of an comic-releif deputy(I doubt there was a Patrolman Benson in real-life),and there are some down-sides. For the most part,the film will seem to most people like an extra-long Dragnet episode,but it does play well.Other un-funny things is some un-scary music playing while the films best moments(like the Trombone-torture of Pierce's then-wife Cindy Butler)have little music;At least it makes for a creepier sequence.

As for a whole,the film is still worth a rental for people to discover it.But be warned about some things:One being that the truth was bent.Take that ending for example.Yes it's silly for the Phantom Killer to be walking around in his trademark hood and "killing" clothes in broad-daylight,but at least it sets-up a pleasing chase scene for the final reel.And some of the performers are not great in their roles,but at least leads(en Johnson,Andrew Prine)deliver,and makes it worthwhile.

So,if you wanna know more,click on a link and maybe you will discover a neat film,and will scare you with what you don't see.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

a bit outdated but famous due the killer and the real events

Author: trashgang from Midian
23 March 2015

This flick here is much spoken among the horror geeks. their are a few reasons why, because it's based (loosely) on the real Texarkana Moonlight Murders. A serial killer called the Phantom Killer that had never been captured even as their were survivors of his killing spree. So it was a hot thing for years in the city itself. On the other hand this flick never had a proper release digitally until in 2013 when it finally hit Blu Ray. Therefor it was out there only on VHS and a lot of bootlegs DVD's.

A hot item indeed and liking flicks about real serial killers I had to catch me a copy to see what's it all about. Being made just before the slasher era but at a time horror was to become the next big thing, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) just delivered the goods, it's a bit low on the gore site but still it is watchable. maybe for some it can be outdated because it moves slowly and the killings aren't that creepy at all but it's the killer who delivers the goods. His way of hiding his face is notorious and is seen in other flicks (Fridat The 13th part 2 (1981) and Nightbreed (1990).

If you are into serial killers then this is a must see even as it is loosely based on the real killings still some parts did in fact happen back then. It's slow and doesn't has the scary parts like it should but worth picking up for many reasons.

Gore 0,5/5 Nudity 0/5 Effects 1/5 Story 2,5/5 Comedy 0/5

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

didn't work for me

Author: atinder from United Kingdom
26 October 2014

The town that dreaded Sundown 1970

I thought it would be good idea to see this movie before I saw this remake, i heard some really stuff about this movie before, never got chance to see before.

Now the remake is out in some places, I not sure if out in the UK out, maybe it is, I hope it is better this movie.

As I just could not get into this movie at all

I felt it was okay plot but I just felt like something was missing from the whole movie ,

I can not put my finger on it, the movie didn't really grab in at all

I was kind of bored most of the movie, when there not once that I found memorable at all and I only saw this last week I can't even remember how the movie ended, I Know I watch the whole movie.


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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Kind of boring

Author: Joe from United States
23 July 2013

The few cool things about this movie was it based on a true story and filmed before Friday the 13th pt.2 in which I can tell was heavily influenced by this film. I took interest in the time period as well. People back then had much more to fear as a killer like that was not a common thing. Now days, a new killing is in the daily news.

Now on to the true low down of this film. I found it to be slow, boring and all too familiar. For as cool as it was that this movie was before Friday the 13th's time, F-13th and the pt.2 (baghead) was much more entertaining then this film. I'd say 85 to 90% of this film was all about the police looking for clues. Overall, boring.

My favorite thing about this film was the ending as short as it was.

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