The Town That Dreaded Sundown Reviews

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Super Reviewer
February 1, 2013
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a surprising Slasher film that is very different than the standard Slash and dice formula of so many others in the genre. The film relies more on atmosphere to create the terror on-screen, and it doesn't have a lot of bloodletting, which makes for a terrific little yarn that has been forgotten by many fans of the horror genre. Another thing that sets this film apart from the traditional Slasher is the good acting from its cast. The cast do a fine job in their roles and Director Charles B. Pierce has assembled a good cast here. The plot is based on real events, which makes this for compelling an engaging viewing. This is a skillfully executed picture that gives the viewer a true, terrifying horror experience that is gritty, tense and in your face. A film like this is rare in the Slasher genre, and only a few films have had the honor of joining this one in terms of using atmosphere and suspense to deliver the chills necessary to thrill the viewer. The kill sequences are nerve racking, and are better constructed than many mainstream Slasher flicks. Since this is a true story, it makes it that much scarier. Actor Ben Johnson (Terror Train) is one of the high points of the film, and his performance in itself is very good. Director Charles B. Pierce has crafted something totally unique here, and this is the most surprisingly effective Slasher yarn that has been released in the 70's that has some well thought out kills that doesn't overdo anything and effective performances with a well structured plot. This is a rare gem of a horror film that is overlooked, but should definitely be seen by every serious horror film fan. The Town That Dreaded Sundown is far better than many films in the genre.
Super Reviewer
November 18, 2011
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a semi-autobiographical story about the Phantom Killer who went on a murder spree in the 1940's in Texarkana, Texas. I seriously do not understand why this film has been heralded as much as it has. I wonder just how many people have actually seen it lately. Being that it has never been released on DVD, I really wonder how many people have actually seen it in the last twenty years or so. It's so appallingly bad - everything from dialogue, story, tone, direction - you name it. It's just so horrifyingly dull. I give it a star mainly for the imagery of a hooded figure, which was later ripped off over and over again by other horror films, and the fact that Dawn Wells is a murder victim in it. Other than that, just plain bleh.
Super Reviewer
½ November 27, 2010
A surprisingly successful low budget horror movie based on the true story of a hooded serial killer who terrorised Texarkana in the mid-1940s. Whether by accident or design, the occasionally wobbly supporting performances, the flat style of direction, the score and the authentic semi-documentary voiceover give the film a pleasantly old-fashioned feel, in keeping with the period reconstruction. Only once or twice is the effect spoiled by the modish use of slow motion, and I could also have done without the comedy interludes which, though mildly amusing and far from terrible, hurt the tone of the picture, I feel. The scenes featuring the killer - including perhaps the most imaginative use of a trombone in cinema history - are, however, very well executed, surprisingly brutal and genuinely frightening. Good performances from Andrew Prine as the local Deputy Sheriff and Ben Johnson as a hotshot Texas Ranger drafted in to co-ordinate the manhunt.
Super Reviewer
August 10, 2009
Real life serial killer films probably owe a lot to this film. It's by no means perfect, but offers a lot of memorable imagery. The voice-over is too prevalent and ruins the pacing a bit, as does the frequent comical interludes. They are accompanied by slapstick music and palm to face acting. It does a god job at capturing the murder scenes, which are eerily similar to those in Zodiac. Interesting for it's time, but has been overshadowed by more well-rounded efforts since.
Super Reviewer
September 24, 2008
I've seen this a couple of times now and really enjoy it. The first time I was right on the edge of sleep throughout, in fact I think I even drifted in and out a little, but despite not being fully clued in on the action I found the film to be pretty much totally gripping. I watched it again recently, with the benefit of being more awake and I gotta say, this is pretty awesome stuff. From the get go it has a nicely authentic rural period feel and a neat documentary style edge given by the folksy, compelling narration of Vern Stierman. It doesn't take long before getting to the meat of the film, which is a series of brutal murders committed by a terrifying hooded maniac. Though lacking much in the way of actual blood or gore, every scene with this imposing fiend (played to the menacing hilt by Bud Davis) is a nail biting delight and he kills with such a mean spirited passion that it wholly makes up for the lack of detailed grisliness. Trying to catch this evildoer is the police force of Texarkana, helped out by elite lawman J.D. Morales, played in gruffly sympathetic fashion by veteran Ben Jonson. The great Andrew Prine, plays the other lead in inspired fashion, giving the same committed and keen ability that he brought to classic hippy witchcraft classic Simon, King Of The Witches. There's comic relief too, courtesy of director Charles B. Pierce playing the enthusiastic but witless Sparkplug Benson. This is really something of a classic, the killer is one of the greats of the genre and his choice of garb bears interesting resemblance to Jason Vorhees in his pre hockey mask period. He also comes up with one choice of weapon so twistedly inspired that its hard to believe it hasn't been ripped off in any later films. Its interesting to see a film where local police and outsiders collaborate without friction, as opposed to the usual cliché and also to see a generally sympathetic portrayal of law enforcement. Pretty much the only criticism I have of this is that the comedy is at times too broad and the structure of the film is very simple, where I would have enjoyed a little more character insight or delving into small town life. This aside, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is, in my opinion, a real gem of a film and I highly recommend it.
Super Reviewer
December 4, 2008
A good little film that reminds me of an older version of Zodiac and Memories of Murder. There's some strange (but enjoyable in a weird Memories of Murder way) comic relief thrown in, but the third and fourth murders are brutal. I've heard this compared to a slasher film, but I really think the violence is closer to Fincher's Zodiac, haunting and real. Those scenes are real accomplishments.
Super Reviewer
½ November 30, 2008
A true story that really does not go early slasher flick that seems short on suspense; the attempt at 'dukes of hazard' humor is awkward and detracts from the mood the movie tries to set. Ben Johnson is always a marvel to watch, and the rest of the cast tries their best..there just is not a whole lot of story shown on the screen, and many key points about the real phantom killer and the crime spree are omitted. An ok watch for what you see get; you jut don't get enough...
Super Reviewer
October 28, 2007
I really interesting slasher, that was released before Halloween.
½ October 29, 2014
10-29-2014. After Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the best of the so-called "real deal" drive-in movies of the 1970s.
October 22, 2014
Was a strange film cuz some scenes were funny for unknown reasons. Yet every scene with the killer was so convincingly real. Such a great performance.
October 8, 2014
An interesting proto-slasher film, The Town that Dreaded Sundown takes place in post-WWIII Texarkana where a masked killer is stalking and killing the quiet townsfolk. Competently directed and alternately funny and creepy, The Town that Dread Sundown is an underappreciated minor gem in the history of slasher and serial killer cinema.
½ January 24, 2012
My initial thoughts:

"One of those cult classic films that's just not available on DVD, finally watched courtesy of TCM.

Well worth a look, the quasi-documentary style makes it seem a bit more eerie than it really is.

Rental if you can find it."

Happily, this has found new life via Scream Factory Blu-ray and is easily available to check out, and holds up well on the re-watch.

Get on it!
January 31, 2009
A decent thriller similar in fashion to the films based on the Zodiac killer. Makes you wonder who that Phantom Killer really was. This movie could easily be remade today. But please, no Deputy Sparkplug! I didn't understand his inclusion at all. The comedic element he brought to the story took away from what could have been a very suspenseful movie. Every time they showed his character driving, I felt like I was watching a car chase from the Dukes of Hazard! It was also nice to see a young (and hot!) Dawn Wells deliver a convincing performance. Odette Yustman could have taken some pointers from her for "The Unborn"! lol
½ November 29, 2011
Great Crime Horror Thriller that's based on atrue story. The creepy part about this little 1977 flick is that the killer was nevr caught and is a disturbing flick. Although it is low udget slasher flicks owe a lot to this film especially Friday The 13th Part 2 with the hood.
½ April 20, 2015
Before the "Phantom-attacks", which occurred about eight months after World War II, Texarkana was pleasant and citizens were preparing for a good future. On the night of Sunday, March 3, 1946, Sammy Fuller and Linda Mae Jenkins park on a lovers' lane. Soon, the hood of the car opens and closes and a man with a bag over his head with holes cut out for his eyes is seen holding wires he had yanked from the engine. While Sammy tries starting the car, the man breaks his window and pulls him out, cutting him on the broken glass. The man then gets inside the car with Linda. The next morning, Linda is found on the side of the road barely alive. While at the crime scene, Deputy Norman Ramsey (Andrew Prine) reports that both victims are still alive. He leaves a message for Sheriff Barker to meet him at Michael-Meagher Hospital. At the hospital, a doctor tells Sheriff Barker that Linda was not raped but that her back, stomach, and breasts were "heavily bitten; literally chewed." At the police station, Barker suggests to Police Chief Sullivan to warn teens and college students from parking on lonely roads. On March 24, while investigating a lovers' lane in heavy rain, Ramsey hears gunshots and finds Howard W. Turner dead in a ditch and the corpse of his girlfriend, Emma Lou Cook, tied to a tree. Ramsey spots the hooded man escape in a car. Panicked, the town sells out of guns and other home safety equipment. Sheriff Barker calls in help and tells Ramsey they are getting the most famous criminal investigator in the country, the "Lone Wolf" of the Texas Rangers, Captain J.D. Morales (Ben Johnson). After arriving, Morales explains he'll be in charge of the investigation and calls the unidentified attacker a Phantom. Ramsey is assigned to assist Morales, and Patrolman A.C. Benson "Sparkplug" is to be his driver. At the barber shop, Ramsey explains to Morales his theory that the Phantom attacks every 21 days. The next attack falls on the day of a high school prom, and decoys are set up on the edges of town. After the dance, on April 14, trombone player Peggy Loomis leaves with her boyfriend Roy Allen. Despite her worries, they go to Spring Lake Park in the middle of town. When they leave, the Phantom jumps on the driver's door and pulls Roy out of the car, causing Peggy to wreck. She flees as the Phantom beats Roy, but he catches her and ties her hands around a tree. Roy awakens but is shot to death while attempting to escape. The Phantom attaches a pocket knife to Peggy's trombone and kills her while "playing" the instrument. Captain J.D. Morales starts to be in doubt that they ever will catch the Phantom...

The film is somewhat loosely based on the actual crimes attributed to an unidentified serial killer known as the Phantom Killer; it claims that "the incredible story you are about to see is true, where it happened and how it happened; only the names have been changed." The actual Phantom attacked eight people between February 22, 1946 and May 3, 1946 in or near the town of Texarkana, Texas, which is on the border of Texas and Arkansas. Most of the murders occurred in rural areas just outside of Texarkana, in Bowie County, Texas, while the film has them occurring in Arkansas. However, the general outline of the murders largely follows the reality, with mostly minor artistic license taken. As in the film, the real killer was never identified nor apprehended. I remember "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" cover in the videostore back in the 80s, but I never saw it then. "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" is slightly strange and uneven in its structure, with quite graphic and violent scenes that changes into bad situation comedy scenes with fitting music. I personally donīt understand why the director Charles B. Pierce took that road as he couldīve stayed on the dramatic path and not ruin the film with this comic relief that makes no sense. The story is there so why ruin it? Itīs a pretty nicely shot movie with great scenery and solid props in all departments. Some scenes are quite good and you can see that Charles B. Pierce took inspiration from the late and great Sam Peckinpah. But..., the acting is quite terrible from pretty much everyone giving the film such an amateurish sense and feel. The only exception is of course the star of the movie, Ben Johnson. To sum it up, "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" reaches halfway, but not much longer.
April 15, 2015
This had raw acting that is rarely found today. The scenes were scary and realistic enough not to warrant a billion dollar production that keeps it gritty.
½ March 15, 2015
Before you watch a movie, make sure that the director hasn't made Boggy Creek 2.
½ March 7, 2015
A dull, plodding, poorly executed 70s slice-and-dice flick. The problem is that there's very little slicing or dicing, the direction is almost entirely inept with acting to match. Even for serious fans of horror, sitting through this clunker is a chore. Disappointing.
February 16, 2015
A predecessor to both the slasher subgenre as well as Fincher's Zodiac, the film is actually pretty good, of you can appropriate its context. When the music cuts out and you hear the bagman's breathing...a person with a little imagination can feel the terror.
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