The new version of The Town That Dreaded Sundown is part sequel/part remake/part meta film, this one almost is a sequel version to the actual events that took place in 1946. Yes taking place after the real events, using the 1976 film as almost a backdrop, it appears the Phantom killer has returned to the town of Texarkana. Whilst on a date at the drive-in to see the yearly showing of the original The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Jami (Addison Timlin) and Corey (Spencer Treat Clark) decide to leave early and wind up at the old lovers lane. Suddenly a masked man resembling the Phantom attacks, leaving one dead and one alive. Is this the same Phantom that terrorised the town or is there a new killer?
First off the storyline here does mirror the original film, even though the film shows up through out. There is a religious group boycotting the films screening, and Denis O’Hare appears as Charles B. Pierce Jr. the son of the director of the original. It certainly knows where it comes from, but rather than be a carbon copy it does something different. This actually works, being a sequel to the actual events (although this being completely fictional) rather than a sequel or a direct remake to the original. I loved all the nods to the film, the similarities, all the while being a very different film.
With the original it acted more like a dramatisation of actual events, with a voice over to update us on what is happening. Here we do have an opening narration but it ends there, it becomes clear this is going to be different. The focus here is on one character who gets haunted by the new Phantom killer, and instead of being in the dark about the Phantom, we do get to find out a few things. This version is also quite brutal, the violence is amped up a lot more and there is blood. While the killings and attacks were similar to the original, they were much more cold hearted and in a way it makes some sense.
This is a very well shot film, it flows at a steady pace and this is where is succeeds over the original. However this is missing a bit of charm that made the original so special. I can’t quite put my finger on what that is, however both films had good performances. I was really struck by Addison Timlin, quite charismatic and easily held the screen and my attention. She certainly carried the film very well, and Jami herself was a relatable and likable character. It was also really good to see Veronica Cartwright (from Alien) again, in a smaller but very caring role as the grandmother. Kudos to Anthony Anderson who plays the Texas Ranger called in, the ‘Lone Wolf’ to help with the investigation. His role might not be a big one, but he certainly owned every scene he was in, a nice piece of casting.
Interesting to note that director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon has a history in directing TV shows with Glee and American Horror Story, and then made this as his first feature. A bold move certainly and he handled it extremely well, in fact I wouldn’t have even guessed this was his first feature. And he has followed it up with a drama/comedy Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, the man is versatile and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next. While I am sure The Town That Dreaded Sundown 2014 will get a mixed reaction from fans of the original, I was pleasantly surprised and really glad I added this to my viewing list this year.