I shall be examining The Town That Dreaded Sundown in a harsh light, analysing its dailies and studying its set to see if it’s brilliant or not that bright. So read on only if you’ve already seen The Town That Dreaded Sundown, or don’t plan to.
0:00:44 A narrator (Denis O’Hare) using very believable news footage as a backdrop explains a mysterious killer murdered couples in the town of Texarkana in 1946. The murders started again “last year”. Like me and my birthday, no actual year is given.
Every year, on Halloween, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is screened somewhere in Texarkana.
I suspect the ‘yearly’ screening of the film is also about as regular as my birthday.
[N.B. The most recent reference I can find to the film being shown in Texarkana is in a park for a summer festival in 2012. Bit of trivia: the park where they showed the film (Spring Lake Park) is the park used as a drive-in for the film and also where the vehicle of one of the actual victims (Paul James Martin) was found March 30, 1946.]
0:04:56 Before I commence hating on this film, let me mention the first five minutes have been directed not too badly. Because we all know I’m going to start hating on this film, just like we know the young couple parked in the woods won’t live to dread sunrise.
0:04:50 Cinematogrpahy like this is why I can’t completely hate the film.
[The song playing in the background is 7Horse – Goodnight Sweet Dream]
0:09:51 The killer (a chap in a potato-sack mask) tells the young man (Spencer Treat Clark as Corey Holland) – who is cute in a fresh meat type of way – to get out of the car and take off his trousers and lie flat on the ground. He tells the woman (Addison Timlin as Jami) not to turn around while he commences to stab the boy with his knife and maybe his penis. The killer (Andy Abele as ‘Sackhead’) tells the girl not to turn around, but she does because she’s a girl. So he chases her down and attacks her, saying, “This is for Mary. Make them remember.” Maybe he means, “Make them remember to do as they’re told.”
0:11:02 Jami stumbles back, beaten and abused, to the drive-in where she’d been watching the original film. She may not have a car but she looks run down.
[N.B. This scene mirrors the first attack in the true-life Texarkana Moonlight Murders. A young couple – Jimmy Hollis and Mary Jeanne Larey – parked in a lover’s lane were approached by a man with a pistol who told them to exit the car. He then instructed Hollis to remove his ‘britches’ and lie down on the ground (like in the film). The attacker then hit Ms Larey over the head and instructed her to run away, which she did, while Hollis was being beaten. The attacker then ran after Larey, beat her and sexually assaulted her with the barrel of his gun (in the film it’s the male who is assaulted).]
0:11:52 Jami is in the hospital and I understand why she lived. 1) Her father was a local journalist, and 2) both of her parents are dead. Mix these together and you have the recipe for an investigative tart.
0:14:29 Amber Timlin’s naked reflection in a tub. If you’re that desperate to see her milk sacks, there are a lot of other, better photos of her available on-line.
0:18:28 Those acting lessons Amber is taking are paying off. She’s noticeably less bad than she was in Odd Thomas.
0:19:14 A false blonde in a 1970s cowboy outfit meets a returning soldier at the local airport and they go to a hotel as cheap as she looks. The most interesting thing about this scene is that it serves no purpose in the film, except to inflate the boob and body count. In her clothes, she’s a cowgirl – out of her clothes, she’s a reverse cowgirl.
0:20:44 Well done. The young woman waits for her beau to return with snacks but instead it’s the killer with the marine’s head. He pounds the head against the room’s front window until the glass breaks. The phantom should call this move ‘The Head Start’.
0:21:20 The slapper escapes by falling out of a window and breaking her leg so that we can see the bone jutting out, which really hits home when she’s in the car trying to press the accelerator with the useless leg. The Phantom arrives and gets straight to the point of his knife inside her body.
0:22:04 The killer rings Jami on her mobile (using Corey’s number) and tells her he’s going to do it again and again until she makes them remember. I don’t think he’s talking about the dishes.
0:27:40 A representative of the Texas Rangers (Anthony Anderson as Lone Wolf Morales) comes in to take over the case.
Police officer: Due respect, Major Morales…
Major Morales: Call me ‘Lone Wolf’.
He says, and he’s serious – and he’s not twelve.
[N.B. The lead Ranger investigating the original murders was called Manuel Trazazas ‘Lone Wolf’ Gonzaullas]
0:29:14 While researching police files that were just given to her because she showed her WTF, Jami receives the assistance of a loner teenager police station librarian. He’s trying to make us believe that he’s a suspect, but either he’s too obvious or the film is.
0:33:36 Jami reports her findings to Lone Wolf, along with an email sent to her by the Phantom. She says a man named Benjamin Sewell was believed to be the killer because the murders stopped when he was jailed 30 years for grand theft auto. He died a number of years before but he had a son who’d visited before his death, so she supposes maybe the son is the new killer. But the son died as well. Like father, like son.
[N.B. The main suspect in the actual case was called Youell Swinney (close enough to ‘Benjamin Sewell’), and he too served time for car theft, though there was insufficient proof to charge him as the Phantom. This is a photograph of Swinney flanked by officers of the law.]
0:36:24 The loner archivist (Travis Tope as Nick Strain) pops by Jami’s house with notes about the original film and crew. He also tells her that his dad committed suicide and his mother is in a “loony bin”, apparently hoping she doesn’t believe in genetics.
0:37:22 Jami takes a date to her murdered boyfriend’s candlelight vigil. She’s as clueless as Lone Wolf and dim as votive candles.
0:39:12 Someone makes the fashion faux pas of wearing a burlap sack on their head when coming to the vigil. A marine friend of the chap killed in the hotel shoots the character because the police force aren’t doing anything. Neither do they jump on the marine the moment he draws his weapon, but instead wait until he tells them to arrest him. This scene goes a long way towards explaining how a serial killer can go so long without being caught in Texarkana.
0:39:52 Sheriff Underwood (Ed Lauter) arrives at a posh dinner party – with his police sirens blaring as though this were a question of life and death – to tell the elite of Texarkana that the Phantom killer was shot. Like a virgin teen in a brothel, this may be a little premature. #SheriffUnderwhelmed
0:42:22 How adorable! Two young men of different races go to the woods to figure out how to be gay. I could give them a beginner’s lesson that would be very handy.
[The song playing in the car is Thrust – Happy Call]
0:44:23 The real – undead – Phantom shoots the black lad after beating him bloody. He then attaches a knife to the end of the trombone and kills the white chap by playing the instrument and stabbing the young man in the back with a killer tune.
[N.B. This scene is a remake of one in the first TTTDS, which itself was based on the fact that one of the true-life victims, Betty Jo Booker, was carrying a saxophone the night she was murdered (after performing at a VFW Club, much like the one portrayed in this version of TTTDS). She was not killed with her saxophone and not tied to a tree, as depicted in the original film.]
0:45:12 We learn the young bloke who crashed the vigil in the Phantom mask was a twisted teen who wanted to commit suicide by cop. If he’d been black in the U.S., he wouldn’t have needed the disguise.
0:47:52 Jami’s parents died in a car accident after picking her up from a sleepover, after she was scared of a girl’s brother in a Phantom mask. She’ll be the death of them.
0:50:44 The authorities discover that the local preacher (the late Edward Herrmann as Reverend Cartwright) sent Jami the Phantom email, despite not being the murderer. He sent it to her to scare the town into coming to his church, though I fail to see how sending a private email would frighten a whole town. In the name of WTF, the preacher is doing one hell of a job.
0:53:54 Very nice blues while a bar stray plays with the sheriff’s
trombone (Gary Cole as Chief Deputy Tillman) on Christmas. That is until the Phantom dots Hank’s eye.
[Chief Deputy Tillman is based on Miller County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Tillman Byron Johnson, an investigator in the actual murder case.]
0:55:46 The slapper makes it into the field and nearly escapes until she screams when mistaking the scarecrow for the Phantom. There is a slight resemblance, truth be told, but only one of them give a crop.
0:57:20 While interviewing the son of the director of the original The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Jami suddenly develops the hint of a Texan accent. Like the clumsy kisser, it must be a slip of the tongue.
1:00:15 Charles B. Pierce, Jr. (the director’s son, played by Denis O’Hare – best known as an American Horror Story regular, also directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon) states that a man named Hank McCreedy (a corpse authorities thought to be a remorseful Phantom) was in fact a victim of the Phantom. McCreedy’s pregnant wife, Mary (the name the killer mentioned at the beginning of the film), was angry that Texarkana had killed her husband and sullied his memory so she poisoned her grandson against the town. Charles believes this grandson is the new Phantom. I believe too much time is being wasted on storyline.
1:04:58 Jami’s grandmother decides to relocate to California so Jami can go to Uni there. She decides they will move to California in 3 hours. WTF!? Jami invites Nick over to say goodbye and she decides she’s in love. They decide to remove random articles of clothing and make sex secretly in her bedroom. Like many people who decided to pay to watch this film, she is screwed.
1:07:56 The Phantom chops off Nick’s head with a machete as Nick is leaving Jami’s. Oh well, at least his death didn’t come prematurely.
1:09:22 The song that plays as they leave is My Best Friend – Jesus Christ. Neither of those people can save this film.
1:11:34 On the way out of town to move to California in the middle of the night, the first stop is a petrol station where an old bloke and Jami’s grandma are shot while Jami is in the store. She needn’t worry, it seems as though the shooter is like adverts for Depends: targeting old people.
1:12:32 In a town with a population of two, both of whom are now dead, Jami steals her dead grandmother’s handbag and runs through the empty streets chased by the Phantom and a murder of WTF!?
1:12:49 While running through an abandoned train station, Jami trips and is surprised to see a pistol fall out of her grandmother’s bag. She leaves the sack and keeps the gun, making me wonder WTF!? she took the bag in the first place.
1:13:51 She literally stumbles across her dismembered boyfriend who just happens to be lying on the train tracks where she just happens to be randomly escaping. Jami may be sad, but Nick is in pieces.
1:15:14 WTF!? There are two Phantoms now. This is totally redundant. There were no unexplained mysteries we need resolved by this development, so this plot twist is like flushing a new Rolex down the toilet: a waste of time. I wish the script writers would be like Jami after both Phantoms shoot her with arrows and get the points.
1:16:08 The men remove their masks. One of them is Deputy Foster (Joshua Leonard),
though I’ve never seen him before in this film who Alex, a very bright and well-spoken reader, gently points out in the Comments section is the police officer who was assigned to watch over her, by sitting in his squad car in front of her house. The other is Corey, her boyfriend from the beginning of the film who was once dead. He’s made quite a recovery.
1:16:34 WTF!? Foster (who is also Hank McCreedy’s grandson) made people believe Corey was dead by planting two of Corey’s teeth on a dead runaway. This is not what is meant by dental recognition!
1:17:46 While Corey is espousing his pride over becoming a local legend, Foster shoots him in the head. This seems only fair, as Corey was shooting off his mouth.
1:18:28 WTF!? Jami is lying on her stomach with Foster sitting on top of her back to pin her down and he doesn’t notice her grabbing the gun and turning over? While he’s sitting on top of her? Wow. I’m as speechless as Foster, but I don’t have a bullet in my head.
1:18:52 Then Deputy Foster’s dead body swims out into the middle of the bayou and sinks.
1:20:50 A shadow stalks Jami at her university in California…at sundown. I’m terrified – terrified there might be a sequel.
[This movie was filmed in Texarkana]
- WTF!?’s: 9 sombre ones
- When to Follow: When you want to watch a classic horror reboot, this is the second best after The Hills Have Eyes. Still, it’s better than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Evil Dead.
- Where’s This Found: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon did a surprisingly good job at directing this, so now I’m curious to see his Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. The story, however, remains too simplistic and the ending is an epic disappointment but the cinematography is pretty enough to look at. Out of a possible 10, I have 6 F’s to give
- What To Feedback:
Left Over WTF (Way Too Funny) Photos
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WTF!? do you meme?