Movie Chat: The Town that Dreaded Sundown
This movie review is courtesy of Toni V. Sweeney. I never saw this movie. It sounds like a good one when you feel like watching a B movie. Toni also shares information on her interesting looking novel A Bit of the Dark World.
Review The Town that Dreaded Sundown (2014)
Usually when I see the disclosure, “Based on True Events,” I immediately respond with, “Yeah, right,” because while there may be a germ of truth in the movie, it usually strays so far from the actual event, there’s no resemblance at all.
This film is a meta-sequel of the original 1976 movie The Town that Dreaded Sundown, directed by Charles B. Pierce, which was, in turn, based on actual events happening in Texarkana, in February – May, 1946, when eight people were murdered and the killer never apprehended.
A meta-sequel, as I understand it, isn’t a true sequel but a remake of an older film, updated and recast. I suppose that sounds better than merely “remake.”
The original film caused controversy and actually inspired a lawsuit from the family of one of the actual victims as well as the city of Texarkana. There was even a brouhaha over the blurb on the movie posters. This is understandable, considering that the true events were still fresh in townspeople’s minds, and the “slasher” genre was in its infancy. In contrast, the second film, as far as I know, was mildly received.
Though I haven’t seen the original so I can’t do a real comparison, I imagine it was quite graphic and bloody, since it was one of the first “slasher” films, made before the most famous franchise, Halloween.
Apparently no one holds a grudge, however, for since 2003, the Texarkana, Texas Department of Parks & Recreation sponsors a free “Movies in the Park” event on each Thursday from May to October. The 1976 version of The Town that Dreaded Sundown is always the last movie shown.
A brief synopsis of the 2014 film, directed by Alfonso Gomemz-Rejon:
In 1946, four couples were viciously killed by a man wearing a bag mask. He was never apprehended. A film is made of this tragedy.
In 2013, a young couple leave the “Movie in the Park” showing of the 1976 film and drive to a local lovers’ lane where, upon hearing something in the woods, they decide to leave.
Good idea, but too late.
The boy is dragged from the car and stabbed multiple times and the girl is pursued into the forest by a masked man who tells her “This is for Mary.” That starts a chain of events in which random others die. The girl, Jami, is the main figure throughout, suffering guilt over the death of the boy she was with, the others who die, and terror because she receives emails supposedly from the killer as well as calls from the dead boy’s cell phone. More gory deaths ensue, including a returning Marine and his girl friend, and a local deputy and a prostitute, and now the message changes to “Make them remember.”
No explanation is given for this change, or why one of the victims, Mary, is mentioned in the original message.‘
Jami sets out to discover what it is the town is supposed to remember. She researches the original case and comes up with some facts and leads Texas Ranger Morales listens to, but the local police choose to ignore.
At a memorial for the victims, the killer appears and is gunned down. People rejoice that the fear is over. Later, it’s found this was merely someone wanting suicide by police and not the real killer.
At this point, Jami’s grandmother, realizing her granddaughter’s becoming obsessed with the murders, thinks this would be a good time for them to move. Since Jami’s been accepted to college in California, she decides they’ll go there, getting her mind off the tragedies. As they stop for gas on the way out of town, the killer strikes again, and Jamie is pursued through a darkened town to a surprising climax and revelation.
When grisly death occurs, it’s surprisingly lacking in gore. Killings are shown in shadow or silhouette, as long shots, or the camera pans away at a strategic moment. Most of the famous “trombone knifing” scene concentrates on the killer’s face.
One very good and imaginative shot is from above a corn field, showing the killer going in one direction while his victim crawls on hands and knees in the opposite, their paths clearly delineated in artistic patterns by trampled cornstalks.
Another unique factor is that the killer doesn’t limit himself to one weapon. Besides the fanciful “trombone knife,” he uses what appears to be a Bowie knife, a revolver, and a bow and arrow, and seems quite adept with all three.
The story has been updated, with emails, cell phones, and more scientific methods of police work, and, to give it completely modern credence, one of the couples killed is gay.
I’m sure the LGBT community appreciated that.
There’s nothing new or innovative in this film. It’s formulaic from beginning to end. With few exceptions, those going to die and what comes afterward are as clear as an outline.
Though well-acted by a veteran cast, with Anthony Andrews in a non-comedic role as Texas Ranger “Lone Wolf” Morales, the movie is at times episodic-appearing, fading to a flashback and back again in such a way the viewer may think at first it’s part of the current scene. The “Movie in the Park” is also intershot with the first chase scene, confusing the action. To further confound things, there are two voice-overs, a narrator and Jami.
Characterizations are sketchy. There’s barely any background on anyone, giving the audience no chance to build a rapport or care about them. They become mere faces in a crowd with a couple of lines of dialogue, or simply appear in time to be the next victims in line.
Perhaps the original film was scary and shocking. After all the genre was new back then. Maybe because so many movies have followed it, both horrendous and gruesome—some in shockingly bad taste as they lovingly dwelling on every drop of blood and every penetration of the knife—this movie seems relatively tame. As a result, it’s a bit of a disappointment. It’s more the story of a haunted youngster trying to determine the who as well as the why for the killings. The best things going for this film are its sometimes creative cinematography, and the fact that characters usually not killed, are, in this one.
I rated it “Okay,” but nothing to make anyone sleep with the lights on.
Toni Shares Information on one of her novels:
Blurb for A Bit of the Dark World:
When Lisa Chambers awakes in Temple General Hospital, she’s injured, widowed, and pregnant and her nightmares are just beginning. Frightening dreams of her dead husband, her baby, and grotesque creatures following a man with burning eyes spiral into wide-awake scenes even more sinister.
Daniel Walker is Lisa’s surgeon, a part-Native American whose people believed in a monstrous creature living in the waters off the Georgia coast. Drexl Von Dorff is the wealthy recluse who pulled her from the burning car, a man living on land once owned by Daniel’s ancestors. They’re bitter enemies and don’t care who knows it.
The two men are paying the new widow too much attention. Each wants her for himself. However, something far more deadly lurks beneath the ocean’s surface, and it wants Lisa, too…
Reviews for A Bit of the Dark World:
“…more intricate than than one would find in the works of the late, great gentleman of Providence, Rhode Island. Some of the supernatural has faint echoes of Dennis Wheatley whilst the more erotic and thriller/ suspense elements are very much Sweeney’s own.” – JAM, amazon review
“…builds with strengthening undercurrents of menace–from a solid framework of normal life,…” – MDS, amazon revie
Lisa awoke, surprised to find herself alone. Rude of me to fall asleep like that. I didn’t even tell the nurse good night. Oh well, I’ll apologize in the morning.
The fragrance of Drexl’s roses was strong in the little room.
Mmm…Lisa took a deep breath, immediately cutting it short in mid-inhale. Something’s wrong.
The smell changed, wasn’t sweet as she expected, not as they’d been at first. There was a bitter, dusty underscent as if they were dying, but that couldn’t be…
She looked at the white vase. They were dying. Three of the buds were blackened and drooping, the petals curled and dry. As she watched, one of them fell from its stem, then a second, striking the table top with a whispery rustle.
Something dripped from the center of the remaining blossoms, slim scarlet threads stretching and abruptly curling upward, hovering wormlike in the air. They wavered blindly…as if searching for something.
For me…they’re looking for me…Lisa’s hand went to her mouth, stifling the scream bubbling against her lips. I have to be quiet. Not a sound. The worms esitated…movement stopped, all pointing in her direction. They’d found her…the slender strands would stretch out and reach her and…
A burst of decaying vegetation poured over her. Gagging and choking, Lisa fumbled for the light cord, clutching at it with frantic fingers…
The reading lamp came on…light flooded the room, making her blink. The flowers were where the nurse put them, fresh and red and sweet, no dead petals, no blood-red strands…
She slept the rest of the night with the light on.
About the Author:
Toni V. Sweeney has lived 30 years in the South, a score in the Middle West, and a decade on the Pacific Coast and now she’s trying for her second 30 on the Great Plains. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art and a diploma in Graphic Art and also produces book videos.
Since the publication of her first novel in 1989, Toni divides her time between writing SF/Fantasy under her own name and romances under her pseudonym Icy Snow Blackstone. Her novels have garnered awards from The National Writers Association, Preditors & Editors, The Maryland Writers Association, and The Paranormal Romance Guild. In March, 2013, she became publicity manager for Class Act Books. She is also on the review staff of the New York Journal of Books. Recently she was named a professional reader by netgalley.com.
Find out more about Toni at:
Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002BLQBB8