The movie that dreaded the ending.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014): 7 out of 10: Before I start with the spoiler let me say for the vast length of its running time The Town that Dreaded Sundown is a top quality horror film with a pleasant atmosphere and some genuinely top notch scenes, it is a remake of the mid-seventies “true story” slasher flick that, like the similarly themed Black Christmas, came out a few years before Halloween but didn’t have the magic of that meticulous movie. The remake intelligently folds the original film into its narrative by having a festival celebrating when the horror film was made locally, and the movie opens in a drive-in theater at the heart of that festival.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown has solid visuals, location shooting, and camera work. The film also benefits from the above board, for the genre, acting. It is a delight to see Anthony Anderson back on the big screen chewing scenery, and taking names. The late Ed Lauter, an actor you immediately recognize but cannot quite place, is also very good in his last role. (As an aside to this aside this movie also sports Edward Herrmann’s last role and while he doesn’t quite make the same impression as Ed in this movie he certainly fits the actor you immediately recognize but cannot quite place trope to a T.)
Okay, Spoiler Alert. (Submarine alarm horn alert.) The “reveal” for this film is awful. The movie cheats. You are supposed to guess which of our heroine’s friends is dressing up as an old serial killer and recreating his crimes. The movie spends a significant amount of time on this mystery. It turns out to be two people. The first is our protagonist’s boyfriend who is “killed” while they are about to have sex at the beginning of the flick. Why is he a masked serial killer? I think he claimed he was either was bored or wanted to be famous. His motivation is as weak as having him alive. I mean our heroine goes to his funeral the next day. Nobody noticed the body wasn’t him? Switching bodies rarely works during a murder investigation.
Our other killer is the helpful and almost a love interest in his own right Deputy Foster who reveals (at the end) that he is the grandson of the killer. Haha just kidding he explains he is the grandson of the killer’s last victim named McCreedy. The film even takes the time to visit a local filmmaker historian to declare this unknown (and up to this point unmentioned) McCreedy relative may be our killer. The family was angry because they left his killing out of the original exploitation film, apparently. (I know the film claims they felt overlooked since the first murder. But come on people. My relative was brutally chopped by an axe and not hit by a train, so our family needs um credit? It is a strange grudge to keep up for a year let alone over three generations.)
Could the ending have worked? Well, make the boyfriend’s body disappear after being killed (and having authority figures secretly doubt our heroine till the next murders) is a tried-and-true technique that would have fit well here. Having Deputy Foster named Deputy McCreedy would have also gone a long way to creating suspense (Maybe that filmmaker/historian is right, and if so the killer was at her house the entire time.) In reality, however, the biggest twin problems would remain. Neither character has anything resembling a motivation to go around killing their neighbors and more damning they have no connection with each other. I do not understand how the jock boyfriend and the Deputy even know each other let alone are intimate enough to go on a secret killing spree together.
Until that point, the film is fun. It can be brutal and has some scares, but it earns them honestly. The film is well acted with an excellent progressive polish that one rarely sees in one’s backwoods slasher films. Overall, a good movie that hits above its weight let down by a poorly thought out denouement.