/horror and “The Town that Dreaded Sundown” (2014)


Blumhouse Productions

Blumhouse Productions

Baddie: Lazy naming conventions.

Lesson: Sometimes music lessons pay off in unconventional ways.

The version of the film I’m about to watch, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, is a remake of a 1976 film of the same name. I have not seen the original as of this review –  I know, I’m a terrible horror movie fan. Sometimes the ignorance works out for me, as in the case of My Bloody Valentine and it’s remake. Sometimes not so much, as in the case of The Lost Tribe and The Forgotten Ones. I think it’s worth saying that the Netflix description sounds like utter nonsense. “Sixty-five years after the Moonlight Murderer terrified Texarkana, the mayhem begins again, and a shy teenage girl knows how to stop it.” Texarkana is a real place, and a place that I find infuriating because it’s the laziest naming convention ever. The area that’s near both Texas and Arkansas. Texarkana. UGH. Moonlight Murderer is a terrible name for a villain. Now that that’s out of the way – let’s movie.

Conflictingly, the murderer is called the Phantom Killer in the flashback that explains that the original film was intended as a documentary/homage to the original murders that -actually- happened in Texarkana thirty years prior. In fact, there are quite a few instances of the original movie being shown in drive-ins and the like in Texarkana. Open to a cherubim Clay Aiken-esque teenager and a shy brunette, some unusual characters and an insistent preacher. It becomes somewhat clear that I am probably missing some jokes and references having not seen the first film. Now, in my opinion that’s all fine and good, but if the audience feels left out, that might not be a good thing.

I think the look of a smudgy Vaseline lens is intentional, but it’s sometimes contrasted with sharp pulp-y cinematics, which, even within the first ten minutes or so, I like. Sometimes, though, there are some funny camera, uh, tricks? Tricks, I guess. Tricks that are distracting. To its credit, though, the cinematography does that wonderful thing in slasher movies that has become somewhat iconic – the follow shot and the slow long pan. The colors are super saturated, and there are Dutch Angles resplendent. It also takes full advantage of lighting, featuring shots like a swimming pool cast in red light and looking quite bloody. I’m also pretty sure that there was a lot of effort made to enforce a hybrid 2013-1976 wardrobe and feel. The effect is worth the effort, there’s an effortless blend of old and new that adds a lot to the film.

Blumhouse Productions

Blumhouse Productions

The gore and killing is fast and features short cuts and violent quick action, which is necessary because the killer is a man with a bag on his head. His schtick is stabbing, most of the time. Sometimes there’s a gun, which I like, because he’s a practical killer that way. Sometimes the gun is easier.

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a movie with rampant nudity in it, but this one also features a decently graphic sex moment. In case anyone was wondering if the trombone comes back…it does. The trombone was something that even I knew about having never seen the original. It’s pretty iconic. There’s always a Puritanical aspect to these things – like, have premarital sex, get punished. It’s somewhat outdated now, so for that the reasoning of ‘revenge of the killer’ stuff works well. The Town tends to do take it one notch up and removes the tired cliche of ‘straight white teenagers’ and manages to do it without a trace of irony. It’s kind of incredible.

The twist is magnificent, and I’ll leave it at that.

Blumhouse Productions

Blumhouse Productions

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