is hard to figure. Is it Texas or Arkansas? One town of two? Either way, you
would think it was far too heavily armed to have a serial killer problem.
Nevertheless, the “Phantom Killer” really did terrorize Texarkana for several
months in 1946. There must have been a post-war shortage of ammunition. Eventually,
the murders stopped, but strictly speaking, the case was never solved. In 1976,
the so-called “Moonlight Murders” were rather controversially dramatized in
Charles B. Pierce’s cult favorite slasher movie. The fascination and the
killings continue in Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s meta-homage pseudo-sequel (don’t
call it a reboot) The Town that Dreaded Sundown (trailer
a Blumhouse production, which releases today on regular DVD.
maybe the killer is still walking the streets of Texarkana. If so, what would
he make of the burg’s annual Halloween drive-in screening of Pierce’s original Town that Dreaded Sunrise? Apparently,
he rather resents it, judging from comments made to Jami Lerner and Corey
Holland when he viciously attacks them during a moment of parked privacy.
Holland quickly exits the picture, but the Phantom lets Lerner live in order to
torment her like a cat with a mouse.
killer quickly starts working his way through the murders in the 1976 film.
However, Lerner is convinced she also must look to the archival case files from
1946 to discover the identity of the current murder. Of course, the local cops
on both the Texas and Arkansas sides are clueless, but at least Texas Ranger
Lone Wolf Morales inspires some confidence, just like Ben Johnson’s J.D.
Morales, who was molded after the historical M.T. “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas.
are times when the 2014 Town is
surprisingly clever in the ways it engages with both the previous film and the
real life Moonlight Murders. Unfortunately, a lot of good set-up is essentially
wasted on a third act revelation that feels like no big deal. We are primed for
something uber-meta, but get watered-down Scream
there is a vivid sense of place (much of the film was shot in Louisiana, but
that’s close enough). Gomez-Rejon is often quite visually inventive in his
approach to the material and cinematography Michael Goi gives is all a dark
glow that is eerie and somewhat Carpenter-esque. There is also plenty of fan
service for Pierce partisans, including a trombone murder. Indeed, the film is
often quite brutal, matching the tone set by its predecessor, so sensitive
viewers should be warned.
due to producer Ryan “American Horror Story” Murphy’s involvement, the new Town features an unusually accomplished
cast for a slasher flick. Frankly, it is a pity Anthony Anderson does not have
more screen time, because he is a drolly entertaining as the flamboyant
Morales. In one of his final screen appearances, the late great Ed Lauter is
also frustratingly under-employed as Sheriff Underwood. Addison Timlin is
perfectly fine as Lerner, but it is not exactly a deep, empowering role.
However, Denis O’Hare undeniably steals his scenes as the meta Charles Pierce,
is easy to see why Pierce’s film freaked people out in 1976. It came out when
many residents still recalled the Moonlight Murders and it predated the masked
Jason in the Friday the 13th franchise
by over three years. Pierce’s hooded Phantom might have also had further
historical resonance for viewers, especially in Texas and Arkansas. Gomez-Rejon’s
take starts out quite creepily, but it deflates late in the third act. (Still,
it is a good deal more uplifting than his latest film: Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl. Oh, the horror. Oh, the humanity.) Recommended
for hardcore slasher fans and Pierce loyalists, The Town that Dreaded Sundown releases today (7/7) on regular DVD.
Labels: Blumhouse, DVD, Horror Movies, Texas Cinema