Saturday, February 07, 2015
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)
Like the 1976 AIP release, which was directed by Charles B. Pierce and written by Earl E. Smith, this SUNDOWN is loosely based on the real-life Moonlight Murders, which plagued Texarkana for a few months in 1946. The serial killer, who was dubbed the Phantom Killer, was never caught, and Pierce made him the sack-headed villain of his tense thriller.
Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and his screenwriter Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, both from the TV series GLEE (as is the film’s producer, AMERICAN HORROR STORY’s Ryan Murphy), tackle the same story by making Pierce’s film part of the narrative — Texarkana natives watch it at the drive-in every Halloween to commemorate the 1946 murders (which they really do). It’s now seventy years since the original murders, but Gomez-Rejon is also influenced by slasher movies, which didn’t exist when Pierce made his film.
The 2014 SUNDOWN isn’t about the 1946 murders, but a copycat killer who first strikes against teenager Jami (Addison Timlin, an assured Final GIrl) and her date Corey (Spencer Treat Clark) on Lovers Lane. The killer (Andy Abele), who wears a bag over his head, stabs Corey to death in a rage, but spares Jami.
More murders occur (including a restaging of the notorious “trombone kill” in the Pierce film), and Jami and an old classmate, Nick (Travis Tope), investigate, while the local sheriff (THE LONGEST YARD’s Ed Lauter), his deputy (Gary Cole, A SIMPLE PLAN), and Texas Ranger Lone Wolf Morales (BLACK-ISH star Anthony Anderson, basically playing the Ben Johnson role) more or less spin their wheels.
As is de rigueur these days, Gomez-Rejon ups the gore factor of the murders, which, in this case, doesn’t make them more horrifying than Pierce’s, but they are definitely brutal and well staged for maximum shock value and black humor. Two of them are set in a bizarre sign graveyard, two others seem to be influenced by the MY BLOODY VALENTINE remake, and the first demonstrates that Gomez-Rejon has definitely seen ZODIAC.