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Friday 5 February 2021

Burl reviews The Town that Dreaded Sundown! (2014)


A shivery sunset to you, it’s Burl here with remake terror to review! Ha ha, and among the least likely horror works to be remade might be the films of Don Dohler or Bill Rebane or Larry Buchanan, but close behind that in the unlikelihood stakes are the films of Charles B. Pierce! Wait a minute, you say - did somebody remake Boggy Creek II… and the Legend Continues? Ha ha, nope! In fact it’s an all-new take on The Town that Dreaded Sundown!

The original picture, released in 1976, is probably remembered more for its poster, or at least the image on the Warner clamshell video release, than for anything else! But it was also an effective exploitation of a local spook-story, in a low-budget, regional sort of a way! The creepy headbag went a long mile to securing its place in the grindhouse pantheon, though, and in my childhood, thanks to that movie, I found even the name “Texarkana” to be inherently eerie! Ha ha, I still sort of do!

The original picture told the story of maniac who terrorized Texarkana in 1946, using a gun or a knife to kill habitués of the local Lovers’ Lane! This new version begins at the annual screening of the Charles B. Pierce picture in Texarkana, during which it is revealed that the killer, now presumably elderly, has returned to his old habits! And judging from his filthy jacket and workpant combo, and of course his headbag, he shops at the same outlet store Jason does! Ha ha! But is it really the same killer, who would now be so impossibly old he could barely wield a buck knife, let alone chase screaming teenagers through the woods with it; or is it someone related to the killer; or someone simply inspired by the movie itself; or, in a possibility brought up several times, some kind of blood-crazed supernatural boogeyman!

Well, the movie has an answer, though not one that will satisfy all viewers! It has other things to offer, of course: a highly stylized shooting approach that will impress some and put off others; some wince-inducing gore; and a game cast! The younger contingent of the cast all acquit themselves well as they try to evade the shootings and pokings, but there’s also a gallery of oldenbones, or relative oldenbones, that includes some surprisingly familiar faces! Veronica Cartwright from The Birds and Invasion of the Body Snatchers plays the lead girl’s granny, who decides that now is finally the time to up stakes and leave Texas, which she claims never to have done before despite living less than a kilometer from its border, ha ha; Edward Herrmann from The Lost Boys is a priest who’s strangely supportive of the murders; Anthony Anderson from The Departed, playing the Texas Ranger in charge of investigating the murders, gets a great blustery entrance but is given disappointingly little to do after that; Gary Cole from In the Line of Fire is a deputy, and Ed Lauter from Lassiter is the sheriff!

The picture works hard to be stylish, clever, and scary, and is successful only some of the time! I did like that they included Charles B. Pierece Jr., noted for his constant shirtlessness in Boggy Creek II, as a character who provides the leads with his own theories on the case! The long take that opens the movie is impressive in a mechanical sort of a way, and some of the lighting has a pleasingly Bava-esque quality, but too often the pointlessly canted angles distract from the atmosphere, ha ha! And the concluding reel of the picture is very familiar, and therefore lacks the impact found in earlier spook-scenes! Still, a noble effort made with enough verve and intelligence to make it worthwhile and not just another sequel/remake/reboot that wastes everybody’s time! I give The Town that Dreaded Sundown two death-recliners!

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