Monday, February 20, 2012

Dollar Bin Horror Review:The Town That Dreaded Sundown(1976)

By Eric Polk-
If the title sounds familiar, it's because it's mentioned by former WCW World Heavyweight Champion David Arquette....(seriously he won the title back in 2000, setting pro wrestling back another 100 years) the movie Scream.

Curiously not available on dvd nor Netflix, I was lucky enough to have dvr'ed it from Turner Classic Movies a few weeks back. Little did I know that the director, Charles B. Pierce who also has a cameo, had a hand in this film. MST3K fans may remember Mike and the Bots fabulously riffed his later movie, The Legend of Boggy Creek 2.

Anyway, silliness aside, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is based on a series of murders attributed to a man dubbed locally as the Phantom Killer, who murdered five people between February and May 1946. The murders occurred in and around the city of Texarkana, which sits astride the border between Texas and Arkansas. As such, there is both a city of Texarkana, TX and a city of Texarkana, AR. Most of the murders occurred in rural areas near both sides of the Texarkana area and also in rural areas of Bowie County, TX and Miller County, AR. The Phantom Killer was never identified by law enforcement and was consequently never apprehended. The film is presented similarly to Unsolved Mysteries, with a narrator dictating the actions as they are shown. Ben Johnson stars as the law-enforcement officer attempting to catch the killer. Dawn Wells (Mary Ann of Gilligan's Island) appears as one of the victims.

Although the movie claims "only the names have been changed", much of the film is fabricated from the real events. A good portion of the film itself was filmed in and around the Texarkana area and a number of extras appearing in the film were recruited from the town's local residents.

The movie itself is plagued with cornball acting. It were as if the acting was a template for the horror movie acting parodies the mainstream would latch on a few years later. The gore is so-so. There's a great victim through the car window scene and the killer is rather creepy, though not on caliber with Leatherface, Michael Myers, or Jason.

Not a bad film, entertaining. Pray for either a dvd release or a return to Turner Classic Movies sometime soon.

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