The Town That Dreaded Sundown - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Town That Dreaded Sundown Reviews

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½ October 19, 2016
31 Days of Horror 2016 #10
July 12, 2016
The true story behind this film so tragically fascinating that Pierce takes upon himself to create atmosphere and chills, especially the trombone death.
Super Reviewer
July 12, 2016
For some reason it tries to be both funny and scary, but fails at both and ends up floundering somewhere between the two.
July 5, 2016
What makes this movie stands out above a lot of other the typical slasher movies is in how it's shot. The feel, atmosphere, and even the quality of the film being used makes it look like news footage. That may sound like a bad thing, but it's really not. It gives it this sense of, and I can't believe I'm saying this, realism. Yep a movie about a Jason-like serial killer is more real than a lot of other movies of this kind there are. It just sinks you into the point where you feel you're not watching a movie, but watching a live feed of people getting massacred. It's the atmosphere that is certainly the reason for watching. That said, it can't be entirely saved from some okay acting, and some bad, and I mean bad, comic relief.
May 17, 2016
Based on a true story, The Town That Dreaded Sundown brings its terrifying historical subject to the big screen with enough atmosphere and quiet chills to capture the mystery and suspense of its fact-based narrative.
½ April 21, 2016
One of the first major slasher films that helped shape the genre. Uneven (nobody enjoys the Barney Fife-like antics of director Charles B. Pierce's character of Officer Sparkplug Benson, it seems) but they took a real life tragedy and gave us the campfire tale version with assertive direction, good performances, and, of course, some grisly murders. This might all seem like old school kid's stuff to the hardcore aficionados of your "Saws" and your "Hostels," but THIS was a true story. Whether he still lurks the streets of Texarkana is anybody's guess, but this film is a monumental achievement in horror and true crime cinema.
April 5, 2016
Sturdy but dated early attempt at the slasher formula. The little violence in the movie is striking and its documentary style approach is unique but it just hasn't aged well with slack pacing and bizarre attempts at comedy.
December 16, 2015
The original movie was a lot better than its sequel. There wasn't too much focus on the killings, only a few. The movie mainly investigated trying to capture him and following the police throughout the film in their effort to apprehend the Texarkana Killer. There was a narrator. Very rare to horror films, I like it a lot. This movie probably isn't even horror to begin with, it basically is a Mystery film. I felt it was much more enjoyable than the sequel, which didn't have much thought put into it.
½ November 8, 2015
Really ain't a bad flick. It's an early example of a slasher film, but also mixes horror with mystery and crime. But it also feels like you're watching a documentary about the real life murders, that's what it is, it's a do cu-drama. The acting is alright but the film is supported by Ben Johnson and his role as a highly acclaimed sheriff. There isn't actually too many deaths in this movie but the gore meter is satisfying. The movie also relies on atmosphere and it work very well, it even has a slit touch of comedy. Recommended !!
½ October 26, 2015
There's a certain kitschy quality to this. The voiceover adds to the enigma of the real-life case, upon which this is loosely based. It adds up to an entertaining film. It is (to date) the only slasher film I've seen that contains a death by trombone.
½ October 25, 2015
A semi-documentary, semi-horror, semi-comedy, semi-what-the-hell-did-I-just-watch film that is shoddily paced, not frightening in the slightest, and quite a bore to sit through with a title that would be better-suited for a vampire movie. This film is loosely based on a true serial killer from the 40s in Arkansas who much like the Zodiac killer, went on a killing spree aimed at couples, and was never caught by the authorities. The true story however is a lot more terrifying than this movie and its horrendous inclusion of slapstick comedy switched the tone drastically and at times I felt like I was watching, The Dukes of Hazzard. The killer himself is the best part of the film as they stress he is a normal man living amongst the town and he could literally be anyone and his "mask" inspired Jason's first appearance in Friday the 13th Part 2. There is a RIDICULOUS murder scene where the killer attaches a knife to a trombone and mock-plays it to stab a woman in the back; a disturbing-enough idea, but the execution is pretty lame. Then for no apparent reason the movie takes a meta-spin at the very end when this film is coming out in theaters and you see the killer's feet standing in line to see literally broke the movie. Overall, this is a slasher movie I'd heard of in passing and it certainly has credible material to bring to the screen, however, almost nothing in this worked for me and the unnecessary narration of every other scene made this feel like a made-for-TV, docu-drama and I almost wouldn't even call it a horror film.
½ October 4, 2015
A very different kind of slasher movie. How is it different? Well, it's kind of like a pseudo-documentary shot almost like old 50s instructional/educational video (well, most of the time at least). You get these out of place moments where the cops are being goofy, and it has a very contrasting tone to the moments where the killer is tying girls up to trees and shooting people in the head.

This may not be for everyone that wants to just see a body count and blood. And the parts with the police that are a bit goofier may put off some viewers who want the movie to be taken a bit more seriously. For me though, I enjoyed it and it was something different than most slashers you would see from the time. This movie I feel had a reputation for being gritty and brutal, which it's not. It's just different, and in the horror genre that's what I'm always looking for.
September 29, 2015
The film's anticipation is full of suspense, however the film itself certainly lacks the shock value of other violent slasher films at the time, such as 'Maniac'. I'm looking forward to watching the 2014 meta-sequel.
August 25, 2015
Based on the true story of the unsolved Phantom killings this film suffers from an identity crisis, does it want to be a slasher? a docudrama? a murder mystery or a bumbling cop crime caper? It attempts to be all and so slightly misses the mark. It does have some influence on films that came after it the hooded killer breathing heavily as he stalks is truly menacing but not in keeping with the light feel to other parts of the film. The narration actually takes you out of the story far too often making more difficult to fully invest. All in all even in it's day this must have seemed a bit dated in comparison to say Black Christmas that came out two years prior. All this isn't to say it's not a good film it has it's charms and is based on a truly fascinating true unsolved case. If you are looking for all out Horror film though the remake / follow up reboot might be worth a look.
Super Reviewer
July 26, 2015
One of the most overlooked horror films, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is based on a series of real life double homicides in Texarkana where the killer was never found. Unlike other slashers, the film used a pseudo-documentary style and eerie atmosphere to generate fear. It was really silly at times and the ending was ridiculous but nevertheless, it should be watched just once.
½ July 12, 2015
This was an enjoyable movie about a town being stalked by a killer in bag mask.
Shot partially documentary style and has some laughs.
Not overly violent but very enjoyable.
½ June 5, 2015
A surprisingly well acted B horror movie. Enjoyed this one quite a bit.
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.
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