65 years after a masked serial killer terrorized the small town of Texarkana, the so-called 'moonlight murders' begin again. Is it a copycat or something even more sinister? A lonely high ... See full summary »
An unknown killer, clad in World War II U.S. Army fatigues, stalks a small New Jersey town bent on reliving a 35 year-old double murder by focusing on a group of college kids holding an annual Spring Dance.
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
The 2013 Shout Factory Blu-ray/DVD release contains an onscreen essay in the bonus features called "The Phantom of Texarkana". The author refers to this film as a "creepy Techniscope horror film". While it's true that Charles B. Pierce shot two of his previous films on 2-perf 35mm Techniscope, The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) and Winterhawk (1975), he actually shot this film on 4-perf 35mm Panavision anamorphic. It was the third film that he had shot using the anamorphic format, the previous ones being The Winds of Autumn (1976) on Panavision and Bootleggers (1974) on Todd-AO 35. See more »
Several times in the movie when we see a close-up of the cops driving in their car, you can see rows of houses behind them out the back window of their car, but in the immediate next wide angle shot they're out in the wooded countryside, with no houses anywhere in sight See more »
And when the sun went down... there was an eery, ghostly appearance to this town.
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The movie reminds me of one of those ace 1940's chillers, like Follow Me Quietly (1949). Based on fact, Sundown is about a phantom killer who stalks lover's lanes in Texarkana, and police efforts to catch him. Of course, without the heavy hand of a '40's Production Code, Sundown is much more graphic than anything from that earlier decade.
Importantly, however, this is not a slasher movie. There is some blood and violence, but the chief effect comes from the larger than usual sound department. The screams from victims are both unrelenting and unnerving. The girls really do sound terrified. Then there's the heavy breathing from the hooded killer, which are the only sounds he makes and about as chilling as the screams.
Credit producer-director Pierce with making shrewd use of a small budget. The Arkansas locations add both color and authenticity, along with the unforced drawls of southern born leads Johnson and Prine. The movie also does a good job of recreating a '40's milieu, even down to the girls' bobby-sox that brings back fond memories. My only gripe is with Pierce— he should stick to producing-directing because his turn as the inept patrolman Benson is too out of sync and silly for the movie as a whole.
Judging from some Google searches, it looks like the screenplay sticks pretty close to the general facts of a case that also appears to have entered the realm of regional folklore. Given the spookiness, I can see why. Anyway, the overall result is a nail-biter in the outstanding tradition of B-movie chillers, with a rather surprising outcome.
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