Serial Killers and Gratuitous Titties and Small Towns, Oh My! Sometimes you make really good decisions, like NOT sleeping with the bartender that has a lazy eye for a free shot (c’mon, ladies, hold out for an Irish Car Bomb at the very least) and sometimes you make really bad decisions (like when you DO sleep with the bartender who has a lazy eye… FOR FREE). The Town That Dreaded Sundown is the best decision I’ve made since hitting my late twenties and that includes the *time (*last week) I powered through countless bowls of moderately priced never-ending pasta at the Olive Garden only to spend the next few days in a carb coma (because there is NOTHING white people love more than moderately priced faux-authentic Italian food… NOTHING).
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a meta horror film docudrama sequel to the 1976 film by the same name and it does almost everything right; from expert direction at the hands of cherry-poppin’ feature film debut director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (the last time I was this excited was a tie between Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead reboot and when McRib season came around) to the micro impactful cast who captured the feel of small town Americana seamlessly integrated with trope horror classics to straight-up genre homage after genre homage.
Initially off-putting with mildly awkward acting, The Town That Dreaded Sundown quickly sucks you into the ever-spiraling narrative of a girl against the world, or at least a masked psychopath “vigilante”. The film follows Jami Lerner (Addison Timlin, who killed it in Odd Thomas –a Dean Koontz supernatural thriller novelized film adaptation with Anton Yelchin) as an innocent night out with her date quickly turns into a race against the clock to unmask a serial killer who has a *lowers shades* POINT to make and axe to grind against those who done him oh-so-wrong.
The jarring but immersive experience captures perfectly the cinéma vérité aesthetic and boldness of the original true crime sensation. The funhouse mirror distortion of reality feels fresh and original when set against a backdrop of breathless genre innovation juxtaposed with insertions from the original film. With whiffs of Hitchcock and De Palma scattered throughout, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a Frankenstein of classic cinematic parts made new again in this badass beast of a film.
There are a few moments of frustrated potential where Rejon’s vision was obscured by external influence and stifled by studio standards (if you’re gonna get murdered while giving a blowjob, by all means cut away before the audience sees a bros junk). The Town That Dreaded Sundown was slightly sanitized to make it less disturbing and more palatable to the public (and the strength that it could have had artistically, while still there, suffers because of it). Not to mention the ever-so-inconsistent pacing, lagging in the middle but picking up just in time to get it’s kill on in the finale.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a gritty, textured look into the dark heart of small towns frozen by secrets and a tragic past. Like a fly stuck in amber or Paris Hilton stuck in a revolving door, watching the characters in this genre gem struggle to pull themselves free and move on from the ghosts of their past is an engrossingly authentic experience.
Getting day (or anytime) drunk and watching The Town That Dreaded Sundown will be the best decision you make all week, unless you wore socks with Crocs today, then it’ll be the best decision you’ve made in your entire life. Leaving you with more to think about than what you sat down with, this film is a slow-burning sleeper guaranteed to satisfy.
With all the makings of a future cult-classic, The Town That Dreaded Sundown slightly squanders that potential but delivers a solid, if at times (*cough* the killer’s reveal *cough*) predictable outcome and was, overall, a thoroughly immersive experience. The film was an interesting mélange of classic genre tropes and innovative cinematic conceptualization. Two severed thumbs way, way up for The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Grab a guy, grab a girl, grab a wildly overpriced infinity scarf complete with complimentary hipster and watch this unsung gem immediately. Trust me, I’m a *doctor (*highly-functioning alcholic).