One of the mastermind directors behind the success of the TV series ‘American Horror Story’ Alfonso Gomez-Rejon brings us an interesting and unconventional remake of the 1976 film ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown’. The film takes place in a small town caught in the constant shadow of a series of killings that occurred 65 years ago, and the killer remaining at large. All of a sudden the ‘Moonlight Murders’ begin to occur again without reason, leaving the town to figure out who is behind the killings and stop them before more people die.
On it’s face ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown’ is just another teen slasher remake that failed to hit the mainstream, beneath that guise though is a reasonably solid meta horror film. The best thing that the minds behind a remake can do, is take something and make it their own, as opposed to a straightout shot for shot remake. Thankfully this is something that Rejon & writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa have happily achieved with their take on the film.
All of the meta stuff aside the acting is pretty good with some familiar faces littered throughout the case. Anthony Anderson, Veronica Cartwright, Gary Cole & Denis O’Hare all make appearances providing depth to the cast and the acting. Addison Timlin plays the lead well, a survivor of the opening attack by the Phantom Killer, who attempts to understand and figure out what is going on.This version of the film uses footage of the 1976 original and portrays it as a cult film that was made about the original murders (The 1976 film itself was loosely based on actual murders attributed to the Phantom Killer). It’s a nice little touch by Rejon & Sacasa to implement this tool, paying homage to it’s predecessor in a different way than other contemporary horror films. It’s not quite on the same level as ‘Scream’ (Dir. Wes Craven, 1996) but it certainly gives it a go and does it a touch differently. The originals use as a film within a film also acts as focal point of societies obsession with horrific events, which I also feel provides a nice light bit of social commentary on the side.
As for its horror, its pretty standard hack and slash stuff with little in the way of scares. I personally think the Slasher film has had it’s day but it is films like this that provide the sub genre with a bit of breathe. Hopefully it inspires others to take a chance on doing something different and give us something a bit more refreshing than inventive ways of slice and dicing young teens.
As a horror fan, and not knowing anything of the original, watching this was a nice surprise. It ticked all the boxes and had more work and effort put into it than your usual Slasher. If you put the meta to one side it borders on generic teen slasher, but thankfully the extra work in implementing the original into the film elevates it above remakes like ‘House of Wax’ (Dir. Jaume Collet-Serra, 2005) and ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (Dir. Samuel Bayer, 2010). It is massively unfortunate that this will not see a proper cinema release here in the UK but the absolutely appalling, unoriginal and terrible looking ‘Unfriended’ (Dir. Levan Gabriadze, 2015) will.
This is one is for all Horror fans, hardcore and casual, and should also appeal to those wanting some Friday night entertainment. It’s definitely worth a watch and should hopefully find some support through word of mouth.