Sunday, February 1, 2015

Film Review: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"It's really nothing new, but it works out well enough."

Decades after a serial killer dubbed The Phantom tormented the streets of Texarkana, a violent murder spree shakes the city once again...

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a meta-sequel to a film with the same title. This re-imagining follows teenager Jami Lerner (Addison Timlin) after she ditches the annual showing of The Town That Dreaded Sundown in Texarkana with her date. Her date is brutally slaughtered, but The Phantom allows her to live under one condition: make them remember. So, Jami investigates The Phantom's original crimes to identify the new murderer. Meanwhile, Texas Ranger Morales (Anthony Anderson) arrives for the formal investigation. The Phantom continues his murderous rampage, Jami investigates, Morales investigates, and so on. Not a bad formula. The ending, however, was immensely disappointing -- way overdone and unsatisfying.

That's really disappointing considering I actually enjoyed most of this film. The film serves as sort of a remake and sequel to the original -- I suppose it's similar to films such as Grave Encounters 2 and The Blair Witch Project 2. In other words, it acknowledges the original film's existence within the film. It works to a point. You see, this film ends up feeling more like a remake because it uses identical kill scenes and settings. The setting stood out to me most, it even bothered me a bit. This film is supposed to take place in 2013, but it looks like the 1950s. The clothing is very retro, cell phones are practically obsolete, and every television is an old tube TV. In fact, the only time this film acknowledges its supposed era is when it's most convenient for the suspense.

Otherwise, it's a fairly standard slasher. Some solid suspense here, some solid gore there. It's really nothing new, but it works out well enough. I was engaged from beginning to end, and I was actually excited during some sequences. I liked the use of dead silence and shadows when building up a death scene. The investigation, although leading to nonsense, was also somewhat interesting. Compared to the original, this film has much more gore and sex, though. Is that a bad thing? I suppose not. Is it necessary? Not really. I'm not complaining, but it's worth noting.

Addison Timlin is a good leading lady. She's on the mark for most of her performance. Travis Tope, playing a love interest of Jami, was competent but boring. The rest of the cast share much less screen time, so they don't really get a chance to shine. Like the narrative and horror, this is a technically standard film -- nothing bad or exceptional. It looks decent and it sounds decent. The gore and special effects were also decent. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon crafts an ominous atmosphere and some suspenseful scenes, but it feels like I've been there and done that -- maybe more to the fault of the writing. I'm never against remakes, but this one feels like a clone of the original with lazy attempts at differentiation. And, when it tries to be original towards the end, it ends up stumbling.

Overall, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a good slasher. It has an ominous atmosphere, some solid suspense, and some memorable kills. The story and investigation are interesting, too. It's inline with most of today's slashers. Unfortunately, despite being a meta-sequel, it feels almost like a carbon-copy of the original. The original elements it does offer, such as the ending, are mediocre, as well. If it weren't for the disappointing ending, this would've been great. So, I recommend a stream or rental before purchasing, especially if you're a fan of violent slashers.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, sex and nudity.

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