Best described as David Fincher’s ZODIAC as if directed by Ed Wood, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is a curious period horror/thriller “based on actual events” directed by Charles B. Pierce (THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK).
During the years following the Second World War, a Texarcana, Arkansas town is menaced by a hooded serial killer whose crimes escalate from brutal beatings to full on murder.
Baffled by the killings, the police soon enlist the help of one of the most dedicated lawmen in the territory, Capt. J. D. Morales (Ben Johnson). He heads the investigation, which soon requires the assistance of a number of government agencies.
The film plays out like a pseudo-docudrama with a narration peppered throughout. At first a little jarring, it sort of works after you get used to it. But the effect severely dates the film and makes it feel like a film from the 1950’s as opposed to 1977, the same year as STAR WARS.
Kudos goes to the production design, which feels authentic to the 1940’s. It’s actually surprising that a film of such an obvious low budget would have the capabilities of rendering such a genuine period look.
THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is a tad too quaint for its own good at times and uses some lame humor to offset the violence. With that said, the violence is quite effective and brutal at times.
What’s even more interesting is that the masked killer is eerily reminiscent of Jason Voorhees from FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2 (1981), not only in appearance but also in the way he is portrayed and shoot, as well as his choice in weapons. But to be completely honest, the killer in this film might even give old Jason a run for his money as he is far more aggressive in his rough treatment of the human body.
THE SCREAM FACTORY has released a remastered version of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN and even though the print has had some wear and tear, it’s quite a good transfer and worth checking out. As an added bonus the Blu-Ray set includes another film by Charles B. Pierce called THE EVICTORS (1979) which I review next.