1976 horror film The Town That Dreaded Sundown is widely considered to be a classic of the genre. It is one of the earliest slasher films and preceded iconic horror classics such as Halloween. Based on a true story, The Town That Dreaded Sundown proved incredibly controversial on its release upsetting the families of the victims loosely depicted within the movie. As always with films that are ‘based on true stories’ The Town That Dreaded Sundown played hard and fast with the facts and it actually bears little more than a passing resemblance to the events it claims to be retelling.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown tells the story of the Phantom Killer, a man who wears a white bag on his head and stalks and kills his victims in Texarkana. After two people are attacked and almost killed, the police led by Deputy Norman Ramsey (Andrew Prine) begin to investigate the case in a bid to catch the Phantom Killer before he can attack anyone else.
The film hasn’t particularly retained its appeal all these years on. What we’re sure would have been a ground-breaking and disturbing film upon its initial release isn’t all that scary or unsettling any more. In fact the film’s content is incredibly tame and it’s baffling why it’s still rated 18. The film suffers from poor pacing and is actually pretty boring in parts. Anyone expecting an edge-of-the-seat stalk-and-slash experience is in for disappointment as there’s actually very little of those kinds of scenes in the movie.
Nearly 40 years on from its original release, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is getting a Dual Format release so that fans of the movie can enjoy it in high-definition on Blu-ray or as a standard definition DVD. The Blu-ray transfer is 1080p and it marks the first time that the movie has been released on this format.
Extras on the release include trailers for both the original and the 2014 remake, interviews with the movie’s stars Andrew Prine and Dawn Wells, as well as director of photography James Roberson, a feature-length audio commentary with historians Justin Beacham and Jim Presley, and a collector’s booklet.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is really only a classic in memory. Watching it again in the modern day serves only to show you how far horror movies have come since this one debuted. There are some fine performances from the cast, especially Andrew Prine, but overall the film doesn’t really hold up against horror classics such as Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street.