Blu-Ray Review – The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

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The Town That Dreaded Sundown comes during an interesting period of the slasher film, it’s right in-between the releases of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween. Like TCM it’s based on a true story and set in a rural area so it doesn’t have the suburban terror of Halloween. It was directed by Charles B. Pierce who is also known for his cult classic Bigfoot slasher film The Legend of Boggy Creek.

The killer is a mysterious man known simply as “The Phantom” who is preying and killing young lovers in the town of Texarkana, Texas which is a border town in-between Texas and Arkansas. The killer is developing a pattern so the deputy feels the need to call in the Texas Ranger J.D. Morales (Ben Johnson) to help him solve the murders and bring the killer to justice. Like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it plays fast and loose with the actual facts of the case so much so a family member of one of the victims unsuccessfully tried to sue the filmmakers.

The film’s style is very confused it’s partly made like a faux documentary but at the same time it has obvious slasher elements. The film’s severe flaw is it has weird comedic moments that really don’t gel well with the story and the score is like bargain bin redneck comedy music. The opening is genuinely eerie but gradually it looses steam but it’s an enjoyable ride of 90 minutes on the dot. Ben Johnson does his best with the subject matter and Charles B. Pierce himself appears as this buffoon of a patrolman. It’s fascinating piece of mid ’70s horror cinema even  if at times a unsatisfying one.

The disc Eurkea has compiled for their “Eureka Classics” imprint is impressive. The main features are interviews with cast members Jim Roberson and Andrew Prine with a third interview with director of photography James Roberson. It includes the original theatrical trailer but also a trailer for the recent remake/sequel and there is finally a commentary with historians Justin Beaham and Jim Presley. All the features are also available on the US Shout! Factory disc as well, Eureka’s release includes a booklet with essays and archive material as well.

[rating=3]
Ian Schultz

Crime, Thriller, Horror |15 | 24th August 2015 (UK) | Eureka! Entertainment|Dir.Charles B. Pierce | Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine, Dawn Wells, Jimmy Clem, Robert Aquino | Buy: Dual Format (DVD & Blu-ray)

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