Visuals / Camera
Entertainment Value / X-Factor
A documentary style movie about a killer that was never caught
A small town in Texarkana is being terrorized by a hooded killer that kills eight people over a three month period. The Phantom Killer was never caught.
I have heard about this movie from many other movies, such as Scream, and of course, Jason in Friday the 13th Part Two wears a potato sack on his head, but I myself had never had the chance to watch it until this weekend. The movie came out in 1976, and sometimes really old movies can be scarier than any modern film. However, in the case of The Town That Dreaded Sundown, older does not prove to be better in this case. For those that are interested in seeing it, its playing on Netflix right now. It was definitely an interesting movie, and not exactly what I had expected after being told since I was a kid that the movie was one of the most terrifying ever. Time for the review!
The movie, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, is actually based on a real killer that stalked the streets of Texarkana back in the 1940s. Known as the Phantom Killer, this hooded figure killed eight people in a three month period between February and May of 1946. Despite diligent work by the local authorities, plus many other law enforcement agencies that came into Texarkana to try and catch the murderer, the killer was never caught.
Here is the trailer:
So what did you all think? The trailer basically shows the whole style of the movie, which is almost a police drama. The Phantom Killer was pretty clever, and no matter how much the police tried to stakeout Lover’s Lane, and other parts of Texarkana, they never got any closer to apprehending him. In the movie, there is a chase scene at the end, and the law actually chased the hooded killer, and shot him, but this is where the director took creative license because the law never got that close to the Phantom Killer.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is almost 40 years old, and at the time, I’m quite sure it was a terrifying movie. While there is not really much blood and gore in it, it does have a certain sense of terror from the very fact no one knows who the killer is, and he is even breaking into people’s houses just to kill. Also, the Phantom Killer is pretty creative with how he kills, which is reminiscent of other famous movie killers like Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. There is a lot of suspense and terror in this movie, and I’m sure the sequel, which is coming out on October 16th, will more than make up for the lack of blood in its predecessor.
There is an element of suspense through the whole movie, and with the killer running around, there are literally people putting wooden slats over their doors and windows. It is also interesting to see just how crappy cops were back in the 1940s, remember, this is baby forensics when all the cops could really do is take fingerprints and match bullets. It truly is a miracle that law enforcement caught any killer back in those days, and this movie will show you why. Overall, you really do get a sense of fear because there are absolutely no clues at all as to who is killing people, but the director does hint that it’s just an average citizen, and they have absolutely no clue as to why he’s doing it or when he will strike next. Also, for all you movie buffs out there that love camera angles and cinematography, there are some really great shots in the movie that reminded me a lot of John Carpenter’s The Fog.
The acting was not that great in this movie, even for 1976 standards. The women especially were rather hysterical as they ran for their lives, but then again this is a horror movie isn’t it?
The Town That Dreaded Sundown was not a bad movie, but it was not nearly as scary as I had been told for most of my life. With the sequel coming out next week, I’m hoping that this new movie is everything that its predecessor is not. After all, when a guy is running around with a sack over his head, you expect a much higher body count, right? Perhaps I’m just spoiled and am too used to a guy with a sack over his head being Jason Voorhees before he put on his famous hockey mask. The Phantom Killer was real, and he did kill eight people over a three month period, which is not a very high body count for most horror movies today. However, the new Town that Dreaded Sundown looks pretty interesting, and when it does come out, I will write a review for it as well to see if the modern film is everything I’m hoping it will be, which is bloody, gory, and most of all… scary!