When I reviewed the original THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976) I had no idea that there was a remake in the works. So it was with delight that not only did I become aware of it but also my friend Ryan Turek of www.shocktillyoudrop.com invited me to a screening at this year’s BEYOND FEST.
What really interested me was that it was being made by AMERICAN HORROR STORY’s Ryan Murphy through Blumhouse Productions (INSIDIOUS, SINISTER) and had a quality cast that included the likes of Gary Cole, Denis O’Hare, Anthony Anderson, Veronica Cartwright and the late Ed Lauter.
Not so much a remake as a continuation, the new THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, like HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 has a meta slant to it. The original TOWN film exists within the context of the new film. The actual real-life Texarcana “Moonlight Murders” that inspired the original film still haunt the boarder town and as a catharsis to some (a bane to others), the locals play the film every year at a makeshift drive-in for the townsfolk who want a trip down memory lane.
But things take a turn when a new killer emerges to terrorize the small town. Duplicating the original murders, his agenda seems to involve making sure the denizens don’t ever forget the past. As the police launch an investigation, it becomes clear that the murders will continue unless the killer is stopped. Could he be the original moonlight murderer who was never captured or a relative? Or could it be just a copy-cat killer wanting to make a name for himself?
The film plays out more like a crime thriller than a slasher film and it’s far more intelligent and thoughtful than most films of this kind. I described the original TOWN as ZODIAC as directed by Ed Wood (and still stand by that), but this remake is in far better hands with Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.
Gomez-Rejon and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa have more than just mayhem on their mind and present a very atypical movie that plays with style and structure creating quite a unique experience. I applaud this film for being different. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not for lack of trying.
Something worth mentioning for those that are squeamish, the violence in the film is extremely brutal. I was even shocked at how cruel and bloody some of the kills were. And because they’re presenting the story with a semblance of realism, it’s even that much more vicious. You’ve been warned… as were the people of Texarcana.