The Town That Dreaded Sundown movie review: self-slashing

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The Town That Dreaded Sundown red light

This isn’t only another rote slasher movie, full of ridiculous coincidences and obvious red herrings: it’s actually worse than that, yet thinks it’s clever.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): very tired of tired slasher movies

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

I didn’t know that a movie could positively reek of meta. But that was before I saw The Town That Dreaded Sundown. No, not the 1976 horror classic (which, full disclosure, I have not seen). But the remake. No, wait, it’s a sequel. Well, this movie of the same name is both at the same time, and more. Not that it adds up to much, though. The town of Texarkana, straddling the Texas-Arkansas border, has a love-hate relationship with the 1976 film, or so this new movie informs us, not that that stops the town from hosting drive-in showings every Halloween. That first movie was based on a series of real-life killings — for actual real, like “really did happen in the real world” — in Texarkana in the mid 1940s that went unsolved. This new movie purports to be about the town’s relationship with its past when a series of copycats killings — which are wholly fictional, and seemingly inspired at least as much by the 1976 movie as by the 1940s events — rocks the area. Local teenager Jami (Addison Timlin: That Awkward Moment) narrowly escapes the first attack, in which her new boyfriend is killed, and she becomes obsessed with solving the original murders, figuring that might supply a clue to who would want to redo them. (Extra meta: One of Jami’s suspects is the “son” of the director of the original film.) But director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, making his feature debut, doesn’t seem to know what he wants to say beyond “Didn’t I find a clever way to do a remake?” It’s really not that clever, particularly in how Gomez-Rejon succumbs to every young filmmaker’s favorite crutch at the moment: a faux retro “timeless” atmosphere. Town’s faded-celluloid yellow-and-gray palette and old tech, old cars, and old clothes almost dominate the laptop here or there, but the pointlessness of this really rankles when the film is most definitely set in 2013. It’s can’t also be sorta-70s at the same time, not even figuratively; it actually undercuts the basic premise of the film. So this isn’t only another rote slasher movie, full of ridiculous coincidences and creepy but obvious red herrings: it’s actually worse than that.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of The Town That Dreaded Sundown for its representation of girls and women.

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Thu, Apr 16, 2015 5:09am

It’s not even an original way of sequelizing. The awful Blair Witch 2 was also about the town of Burkittsville’s difficult relationship with the first movie.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jurgan
Thu, Apr 16, 2015 10:06am

I don’t think I ever saw that one. If I did, I have long since forgotten everything about it.

But good point!

reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Thu, Apr 16, 2015 3:38pm

You weren’t missing much.

Thu, Apr 16, 2015 3:46pm

Streets of Fire did the “timeless” thing, and was widely vilified for it. Maybe it’s suddenly become popular at film school?