town_that_dreaded_sundown-1Year: 2014
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Writer(s): Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Earl E. Smith
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: R
Digital, Color, 97 mins

Synopsis: 65 years after a masked serial killer terrorized the small town of Texarkana, the so-called ‘moonlight murders’ begin again. Is it a copycat or something even more sinister? (Source)

Slashers haven’t been the same since Scream knocked the wind out of them, calling out all of the genre’s failings and strengths out in a single blow. Since then, post-Scream films have tried to stay one step ahead of their audiences, resorting to merciless “winking” and self-aware irony to keep afloat. Enter Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Rejon’s film exists in a weird place, not quite a remake, not quite a sequel and plays it straight. While this new film doesn’t necessarily rewrite the rules, Rejon smartly accentuates the genre’s strengths, crafting savage set pieces around a scary boogeyman who takes no prisoners. If you’re a discerning fan, you’re probably only here for the blood and gore anyway, and you’ll get plenty of it in some of the most creative ways we’ve seen in a while. Combine that with the story’s meta-spin and you’ve got a refreshingly traditional slasher, one that doesn’t just repeat it’s predecessor and knows exactly what we wanna see.

Like the original film, this one dips into the real-life legend of the unsolved Phantom Killer, only with a twist. It opens up in Texarkana, 2013, at an annual Drive-thru screening of the original 1976 film. In this world, the classic film is almost like the small town’s claim to fame, outliving the infamous boogeyman and earning a cult following amongst the town’s teenage crowd. When one couple leaves the screening that night, the killer resurfaces and strikes again, mercilessly slaying one of the doomed lovers only to leave the other, Jami alive. His purpose is to allow her to “make the town remember”. Jami naturally has no idea what the killer is talking about, but as the body count rises, she’ll discover that not everyone in her sleepy town is innocent.

town_that_dreaded_sundown-2By all accounts, the film is as straightforward as it gets, but is saved by a fun procedural element and impressive visuals by director Rejon. As an alumni of American Horror Story, Rejon knows how to build genuine atmosphere and unrelenting tension in the most vivid ways possible. His camera swings in and out of the action and scenes fade into one another like a fluid stream of consciousness. In between the numerous killings, his visual accents keep the story entertaining. As for the murders, they’re fast, vicious and twisty, each scene peeling back a layer of mystery and allowing the Phantom Killer to transform into a force of nature, evocative of Michael Myers in the original Halloween. The chills come from his lack of character and Zodiac-esque vibe, not to mention his expertise with various sharp objects – yes, the trombone returns, and yes, it’s gruesome. The only downside is when the film attempts to finally explain the killer and it’s then we find that mystery is always much better than an answer.

The Town that Dreaded Sundown is an interesting take on both what a remake or reboot can be, acknowledging its past and building from it in new ways. Rejon presents to us a world that seems frozen in time due to the tragedy that has befallen upon it, and it works to stir up an emotionally cathartic story, despite it’s lack of real depth. Addison Timlin also fares pretty well as Jami, the film’s protagonist who is at times a great proactive heroine. If anything, this is solid, hard-R genre fare that doesn’t need to fit into an easily marketable box. Instead, it’s the return of a beloved genre and one of it’s more obscure boogeymen to great effect.

Crome Rating: 3/5