Movie Review: The Town that Dreaded Sundown

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (**)

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 86 minutes

Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Cast -Addison Timlin, Spencer Treat Clark, Ed Lauter, Veronica Cartwright, Gary Cole, Anthony Anderson, Joshua Leonard and Edward Herrmann

(Glasgow Film Festival Screening)

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THERE’S meta, there’s meta-sequel and then there’s The Town That Dreaded Sundown. The movie is based on an old movie that in the new movie is based on real events that they made a movie about. Still with me? The aforementioned old movie and the killer from it has returned some 50 years later in a series of copycat killings. It gets a bit confusing, but basically this isn’t a re-make but both films – old and new – have the same name. It’s a bit like Scream 2 but if the Stab movie was just called Scream.

Ok so all that aside, is this any good? Well the pedigree is there, we have Jason Blum of Blumhouse as a producer along with American Horror Story (and Glee?!?) stalwart Ryan Murphy also coming from the Blumhouse stable. It also marks the first film since 1999 to bear the Orion Pictures banner. Direction comes from Alfonso Gomez-Rejon who was Emmy nominated for his direction on American Horror Story: Coven, which in my opinion is the best AHS so far. With all this greatness on board it’s hard to see just why this didn’t all gel with me. It felt like an overlong episode of American Horror Story, and nothing more.

The story is that a slasher terrorised Texarkana in the 1940’s and a movie was made about it, the original The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Every year the town show this movie, but this year while they are showing it at the drive-in the sack headed killer begins killing again claiming it is ‘for Mary’ and to ‘make them remember’. The killings continue and our plucky young heroine who escaped the first killing is determined to find out who did it. Stylistically the film has enough going on to make it interesting, it has a 70’s aesthetic even though it’s set in present day, there is a heavy use of colour gels, with whole scenes just being one colour (mainly red) and the use of a 360 degree shot more than once.

To me however the characters weren’t very multi-dimensional and I felt the script ultimately let it down. For a meta-sequel, as it’s billed, there wasn’t much clever use of the premise outside of re-treading territory that has already been covered (and much better) in Scream or any one of its sequels. It all felt a little flat and ultimately left me running out of steam before the third act and a conclusion that found me apathetic and checking my watch more often than is healthy, with a film that only has an hour and 22 minutes running time that’s not a good thing.

In conclusion there are some interesting ideas and the meta-sequel concept does start promisingly, but that’s as far it gets as the ideas fizzle out and we’re left at the end wanting something that is a little bit more than the sum of its parts.

Review by Chris Caldwell
Review by Chris Caldwell

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