Thursday, 26 February 2015

Horrors of 2014: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Starring: Addison Timlin, Veronica Cartwright, and Anthony Anderson
Running Time: 86 min

  I'm not usually that crazy about seeing remakes of films but I enjoyed the original film, so I thought I'd giver a shot.  Also, the director has worked on a number of episodes of "American Horror Story", so he must have some idea on how to tell a scary story.

  It's Halloween and Jami and Corey are on a date at the drive in watching the annual viewing of the 1976 classic horror film, "The Town That Dreaded Sundown".  The film was based on a series of murders that happened in their small town of Texarkana in 1946, by a mysterious killer named the Phantom, who has never been caught to this day.  Sadly, Jami is not that into horror movies and suggests that her and Corey skip the movie and go for a ride.  Corey is smart enough to not have to be asked twice and the teens head out to lover lane.  When they get there, Jami ends up talking and eventually they start making out a little bit, but they are interrupted by a man in the bushes, who resembles "The Phantom" killer.  Corey and Jami lock the doors and try to leave but the man dressed as the "Phantom" smashes Corey's window and forces them out of the car with a gun.  He tells Jami to turn around and not to look, then gets incredibly stabby with Corey.  Jami looks, freaks out and runs away with this new "Phantom' hot on her heels.  Sadly, the "Phantom" catches her but inside of killing her, he leaves her with a message for the town.  He tells her that "This is for Mary. Make them remember" and lets her go.  She ends up crawling back to the drive in, where people help her out and call the police.
  The town is shocked that there could be a new "Phantom" and the police think that this might be just some nut, who has seen the movie too many times.  However Jami is still stunned, puts on her Nancy Drew hat and begins investigating the "Phantom" case to see if she can crack this 60 + year old case.  Sadly, only a few weeks later, the "Phantom" strikes again and brutally murders a couple at a crummy motel.  Now the "Phantom" has the attention of the Texas Police force as well as the Arkansas Police force, who ban together to stop this monster from killing again.  Also, Jami is still getting text messages from the "Phantom", who is telling her that she must tell the press that "This is for Mary".  Will this sleepy little town be afraid to walk the streets at night again or will the police and a scrappy young woman be able to outwit the"Phantom"?

  This was an interesting film because it wasn't so much a remake as it was sequel to the original.  I like that director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (American Horror Story, Glee) created this reality that incorporated not only the actual case of the "Phantom" but the movie as well.  The back story was able to be told a little quicker and the film was able to get into the new story right away.  Additionally, I like that the new "Phantom" mimics the original killer and uses some of the same M.O's.   Especially, the scene where he kills someone with a trombone, that just slays me.
  Also, this film comes from one of the survivors eyes.  In the original film, which I really enjoy, it's focused on the police and their investigation into the case.  Coming from Jami's perspective makes the film less cut and dry and gives it a real human element.
 Furthermore, I like that the producers put some thought and money into this film.  There is some good talent in this film like Gary Cole (Office Space, American Gothic), Edward Herrmann (The Lost Boys, The Shaft) and Ed Lauter (Cujo, Leaving Las Vegas). As well as Addison Timlin (Odd Thomas, That Awkward Moment), who gives a great performance as the lead Jami.  As well as the production on the film looks great and there a number of ferocious slasher scenes that are really terrific and shouldn't be missed.

  With that said there were still some issues that made me scratch my head, like it's pretty fortuitous that some of the murders worked out the way they did.  The most obvious is that two teens are going to go make out and one of them will have a trombone with them.  I love this scene but it's such a stretch.  No killer is that lucky.  Anyway, there are moments in the film like that, where you may have let your imagination stretch a little further and just let it go.
  Also, the cell phone that keeps calling Jamie, why don't the police just track it?  And why is the killer still using her dead dates phone? Is he putting minutes on it? It's a minor thing but it did bug me, especially near the end of the film.
  Which brings us to the ending, which isn't horrible but I'm really not that impressed with.  It just seemed a little tacked on and there are things that really don't ring true.  Again, it's a real stretch for any sort of logic.

 However, the film was surprisingly pleasurable and it's worth checking out if your into slasher films.  This wasn't quite what I was expecting but there is an interesting story here, with some excellent talent and some good bloody scenes.  So, if your dreading sundown & searching through another pile of horror remakes to watch, give this a shot and you may be pleasantly surprised.

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