TAD 2014: The Town That Dreaded Sundown Review

The Town that Dreaded Sundown

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s follow up/reimagining to the 1976 film The Town that Dreaded Sundown came into this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival flying under the radar of most. The hyper stylized film stars Addison Timlin as Jami, a survivor of what appears to be first attack of the masked killer dubbed the Phantom since 1946. As Jami is left with the edict to make everyone remember the terrifying events of the original Phantom by this new attacker, she digs into the history of the killer and the town of Texarkana itself all in a frantic attempt to stop the killer as he continues his bloody rampage across the small border town.

It’s gorgeously shot and staged, brutally unflinching in its violence and dripping with sexually charged energy. Gomez-Rejon has devised some of the most ingenious and intelligent shot compositions you are likely to see in a slasher film. One sequence in particular involving motion detecting porch lights is outstanding and pays off brilliantly. Timlin is not your typical final girl survivor, gorgeous as she may be; she is not the typical leggy screaming model but an intellectual in a short frame that exudes confidence and strength throughout. The film is also blessed with an amazing supporting cast that includes the excellent Gary Cole, Anthony Anderson, Ed Lauter, Veronica Cartwright and a stunningly great performance from Ed Herrman as a controversial preacher looking to capitalize on the fervor surrounding the case.

The lush camera work combines with an intelligent script that adeptly mixes fiction and fact, the inclusion of one character that helps Jamie to discover the identity of the killer was added in just before start of production when that person was discovered to be actually living in Texarkana, help sell the overall uneasy feeling that permeates the film. It’s a feeling that stays with the audience well into the theater lobby and beyond, a testament to the impact Gomez-Rejon manages to achieve. (Kirk Haviland)