Horror This ‘n’ That

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) and Don’t Blink are currently on streaming Netflix.

Town that Dreaded Sundown

 

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) – Rated R

Sixty-five years after the masked Moonlight Murderer terrified Texarkana, the mayhem begins again, and a shy teenage girl knows how to stop it.”

The original The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) was a rather odd hodgepodge of a movie involving a series of real-life murders in Texarkana. Part of it dealt with the murders from the murderer’s point of view and part dealt with the manhunt, ably aided by veteran character actor Ben Johnson as the lead Ranger in the investigation. It suffered from a low budget and some abrupt tonal shifts but was an interesting misfire for its time.

The new The Town That Dreaded Sundown is neither a remake nor a reboot. The old movie is actually part of the plot for the new movie (kudos to Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa). The new attacks actually stem from an incident at a drive-in movie showing – you guessed it – The Town That Dreaded Sundown.

As usual for a horror movie, the police here are rather clueless and our plucky heroine who survived the initial attack of our new killer investigates the new murders. There are a few other additional good ideas but there are also a lot of story beats stolen from various other horror movies, such as Scream. Other thoughts came to mind at various points such as Nancy Drew and Scooby-Doo and these are not favorable.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown ends up being a passable waste of time, particularly those with knowledge of, though not necessarily reverence for, the original movie.

Don't Blink

 

Don’t Blink (2014) – Not rated

Ten friends are stranded at a secluded — and deserted — mountain resort, where they must solve the deadly mystery surrounding the abandoned lodge.”

Don’t Blink is another good idea gone awry. I am unsure as to how much credit to give writer/director Travis Oates. There are actually many good ideas in this movie but the central premise is one that has been done before. Don’t Blink is exceedingly similar to Vanishing on 7th Street.

On the other hand, Oates sets his film at a deserted  (or is it?) mountain resort, instead of an entire city, giving this a nice mystery vibe a la Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians. The scenes are filmed effectively though the repeated, nonsensical gasoline problem gets old very quickly (what, absolutely NO ONE filled up at the nearest gas station? AND none of the cars at the resort had used the resort’s pumps?). The gas issue does work though if you view the entire movie as a metaphor about this issue.

For being a pretty young people in peril (or PYPIP) movie, the characters are distinguishable and not horrifically annoying. There is a bit of disbelief involving the choice to stay once events unfold but it is all slickly done. There are some very interesting events surrounding the lodge that subtly play out.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown – Gainesville, Florida

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is currently available on streaming Netflix

The Town that Dreaded Sundown

 

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) – Rated R

In the late 1940’s, the residents of Texarkana, Texas are terrorized by a mysterious, hooded, nighttime killer who leaves the authorities baffled.

Texarkana looked normal during the daylight hours. But everyone dreaded sundown…

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (hereafter: Town) is a complete tonal mess. This is a great example of celluloid cognitive dissonance. The film is heavily narrated and not by the lead investigator (or any other cast member for that matter). This lends the film a documentary-like appeal.

Town was obviously made to cash in on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Violence may be gruesome for 1976 but clearly not for today’s audiences. The stalking and chasing of victims comes off well and there is always something primal about a faceless assailant, here utilizing a simple white cloth bag mask with eyeholes.

Then comes Town’s biggest mistake. Apparently someone felt that there wasn’t enough levity in a documentary-style film about a serial killer in the 40s so they added a complete doofus of a deputy. Imagine dropping Barney Fife into The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The deputy, nicknamed Sparkplug, is played by Charles B. Pierce, the director of the movie.

Town’s sole star is Ben Johnson. Johnson is always a welcome sight and, naturally, he plays a Texas Ranger named Captain J.D. Morales. Morales takes over the case and half of the film is dedicated to Morales and crew trying to hunt down the killer.

Personal side note: I actually experienced The Town That Dreaded Sundown. In my case, it was Gainesville, Florida, where I used to manage a drugstore. Over several days in August of 1990, five college students were brutally killed. The murders were quite horrific and involved break-ins so no one felt safe, even at home.

The entire town went crazy with rumors and speculation as no one was caught for awhile. This included rumors of further murders that did not pan out. Parents came to Gainesville and removed their children from college. An early suspect, Edward Humphrey, was plastered all over the news as a ‘person of interest’. I am sure his life was ruined. Gainesville emptied even more than on summer break and people didn’t venture out much after dark.

Eventually, Danny Rolling was caught, tried, convicted, and executed for the murders. To this day, there is a graffiti memorial to the five victims on 34th Street. Occasionally someone will graffiti over it but it always gets repainted.

Second side note: The Gainesville Student Murders were a large part of Kevin Williamson’s inspiration for the movie Scream as was the movie The Town That Dreaded Sundown.

Now we have a new The Town That Dreaded Sundown coming out. In the finest Williamson tradition, it is not a reboot but a metapicture and takes place now in the Texarkana location of the original film.

I love Ben Johnson, horror movies, and period movies but I simply cannot recommend this bizarre hodgepodge of a movie. Perhaps the reboot will have more to recommend it.

 

More New October Netflix Listings – HGTV Food Travel DiY

If the list seems overwhelming, it is because Netflix has a new deal with the HGTV/Food/Travel/DIY group of channels.

Hit!

Action/Adventure: Hit!

Comedy: Bad Johnson, Monique Marvez: Not Skinny Not Blonde, Pride: The Gay and Lesbian Comedy Slam, Swearnet Live

Documentary: American Jesus, American Promise, Ancient Extraterrestrials: Aliens & UFOs, Caucus, Documented, Everything or Nothing, Ken Burns: The Address, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, Please Subscribe, Under the Electric Sky, Watermark

Drama: Murder on the Home Front

Family: Curious George: A Halloween Boofest

Fantasy & Science Fiction: Vikingdom

14 Blades

Foreign: 14 Blades

The Town that Dreaded Sundown

Horror: Big Ass Spider!, Carrie (2013), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

Television: America Declassified, American Masters: Billie Jean King, The Brian Boitano Project, Buying & Selling, Chopped: Collection, Color Splash Collection, Cousins on Call, Cupcake Wars Collection, Cutthroat Kitchen, The Dead Files, Diners Drive-Ins and Dives Collection, Flea Market Flip, Ghost Adventures Collection, Good Eats Collection, Holmes Inspection Collection, Hostages, Hotel Impossible, House Hunters Collection, House Hunters International Collection, How to Start a Movement, Income Property Collection, Love It or List It Collection, Mysteries at the Museum Collection, 11 new Nature specials, Nazi Hunters, Off Limits Collection, The Pioneer Woman Collection, Property Brothers, Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day, Rehab Addict Collection, Reign, Restaurant Impossible Collection, SciGirls, Selling New York Collection, Sid the Science Kid, Wild Kratts, and new episodes of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations Collection, Man v. Food, The Vampire Diaries, and Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman