It must have been difficult to try to come up with a way to make a sequel to a film based on true events such as 1976’s The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Leave it to producer Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story, and this fall’s Scream Queens) to find a way. With Alfonso Gomez-Rejon — one of his AHS directors and the recent Me and Earl and the Dying Girl — holding the reigns, I knew we were in good hands. Also involved is another Glee alum, writer Roberto Aguirre- Sacasa, who co-wrote the recent Carrie remake.
Is there more to the story of “The Phantom” who stalked the streets of Texarkana, Arkansas? Is this remake/sequel simply another log to be thrown on the fire along with all the rest of the horror remakes over the years? Not at all. With plenty of chills this Town That Dreaded Sundown plunges into a format most horror films shy away from and gives a very fresh spin on a genre that could use some, well, life, and is available now on DVD from Image Entertainment and on Blu-ray as a Best Buy exclusive until September 8.
We open with a voiceover informing us that the 1976 film is played annually in Texarkana on Halloween night. In 2013, teenage Jami (Addison Timlin) is on a date at the drive-in with Corey (Spencer Treat Clark). It’s not long before they drive off to a lover’s lane where they’re attacked by someone disguised as the original “Sackhead.” Corey is killed and Jami is sent off to deliver a message to the townsfolk that things aren’t over yet. The police think it’s a copycat because the original killer would be nearly 100 years old. Jami is convinced it’s someone involved with the original murders from 1946 because the killer was never caught. Soon enough, more teens wind up on the slab and the town is thrown into chaos while a killer once again stalks their streets.
In case you didn’t notice, the story here is not a sequel to the film, but rather on the original case. While staying true to its remake roots, director Gomez-Rejon goes off the beaten path to make a far more interesting film. The killer does copy some of the original film’s kills — such as the one involving a trombone. At its heart, this Town is more interested in a whodunit atmosphere, with lots of red herrings strung along until the big showdown as motives are revealed, along with who might be under that disturbing hood.
The cast is having more fun than usual, with Timlin continuing to prove her chameleon-esque acting ability and Anthony Anderson showing up as a Texas Ranger character named after the captain in the 1976 film. Gary Cole isn’t given as much to do as usual, but American Horror Story regular Denis O’Hare manages to bring his typical creepiness to the son of director Charles B. Pierce. It’s also nice to catch character actor Edward Herrmann in one of his final roles. Also be on the lookout for a cameo of Halloween star Danielle Harris.
Gomez-Rejon never tries to outdo the original film, but simply found a way to continue the tale of a terrorized town. The Town That Dreaded Sundown is creepy and brutal, with enough gore to keep the most hardened horror-hound happy. A particular compound fracture is bound to make you wince. And clocking it at barely 86 minutes it never outstays its welcome. The Town That Dreaded Sundown is definitely worth a look, whether you’ve seen the original or not, there’s plenty to keep you entertained as it showcases its own brand of “thing that goes bump in the night.”[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00VU2KZN4][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00VU2L0QU][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00BCMT2BI]