THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN *** USA 2014 Dir: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. 86 mins
The original 70’s THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, made before the American slasher boom took off, exists in a strange halfway-house between true crime melodrama and stalker picture, with FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 memorably inheriting its killer’s costume of choice. The remake takes a very 21st century approach by taking place in the town (Texarkana) where the original 1940’s murders took place, and by incorporating the 1976 film as a fictional text that characters watch, research and discuss.
The opening assault on an eloping couple is set (naturally) at a drive-in screening of the 1976 film, with Addison Timlin surviving the attack that kills her boyfriend and emerging as an appealing, haunted final girl. The supporting cast is dominated by impressive character actors from the late Edward Herrmann to the always fine Veronica Cartwright (as Timlin’s nan) and Gary Cole as the Sheriff. The murder scenes are brutal and well done, shying away from SAW-style grue but powerfully conveying the killer’s unforgiving presence. It’s stylish and suspenseful and the self-aware touches (like the use of Charles Pierce Jr, son of the original film’s director, as a key expositional character) are effective rather than intrusive. A shame the whodunit Big Reveal climax is a little too SCREAM for its own good, but otherwise this is a solid latter-day slasher.