Main cast: Addison Timlin (Jami Lerner), Travis Tope (Nick Strain), Veronica Cartwright (Lillian), Gary Cole (Chief Deputy Tillman), Joshua Leonard (Deputy Foster), Edward Herrmann (Reverend Cartwright), Anthony Anderson (Lone Wolf Morales), Ed Lauter (Sheriff Underwood), Denis O’Hare (Charles Pierce Jr), and Spencer Treat Clark (Corey Holland)
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Ooh, talk about meta. In 1976, there was a movie with this same name, which revolved around the allegedly true story of a serial killer, called the Phantom Killer, doing that kill-kill-kill thing in a Texan town called Texarkana. That movie was profitable, and it also invited a lawsuit from one family and some not-so-welcoming reception from the people of that city. That movie pointed out that another movie, also of the same name, was made as a result of the killings and would be played in Texarkana every year during Halloween.
This particular version of The Town That Dreaded Sundown is… well, it’s another movie, yes, that is set more than sixty years after the event of the 1976 movie of the same name. It opens during the annual screening of the movie referenced in the 1976 movie and can I stop making these convoluted sentences now? I’m sure most people reading this so far are confused. At any rate, it’s actually fine to ignore these two paragraphs and just watch this one as another standard slasher flick in some Podunk town. And that’s the problem with this one: strip away the gimmick, and it’s just another slasher flick.
When the movie opens, the “odd girl in town” Jami Lerner is about to get lucky with town golden boy Corey Holland when, after cutting short their movie date watching you-know-what as she’s not fond of slasher flicks, they decide to make out in a dark and deserted road by the woods. Guess what happens. That’s right, someone dressed up as the Phantom Killer skewers his knife into Corey like the poor kid is a pincushion for blades, and leaves Jami alive with a mysterious farewell line: “This is for Mary. Make them remember.” Over the next few days, the killings continue, and of course Jami starts to investigate matters unofficially with fellow town weirdo Nick Strain. What will they learn and will they ever stop the killings? It’s not like they can rely on the Sheriff and his men, as they too are flailing.
A big pall over this movie is Addison Timlin showing little believable emotion throughout it all. Sure, she screams whenever it’s needed of her, but Jami comes off more like a mechanical thing than human being. One can argue that perhaps the young lady is shell-shocked after Cole’s brutal murder, but come on, the wooden line delivery and blank expressions started long before that scene. This is an odd movie in that the older cast members put on more believably human portrayals of their characters, but they are sadly sidelined for the young and the wooden.
Still, some of the kill scenes are pretty gory and there is a decent amount of T&A here, although sadly the last is solely from the female cast members, and people who want to look at naked male flesh will have to keep looking elsewhere. Also, there are some superficial references to the 1976 movie – nothing too smart or fancy, though – which may improve the enjoyment of the six people watching this one who also remember that older film. All the supposed teenager characters here have tragic back stories in place of actual personalities, and it’s hard to bring myself to care about them.
All things considered, this one doesn’t offer anything different or interesting. It’s a generic slasher with a lame twist straight out of the Scream movies trying to pass itself off as something more with its meta-sequel gimmick. Watch this or not, it won’t make much of a difference in one’s life. Save this one for days when there is nothing better to watch.