Since I’ve seen the original film that this pulls from, I decided it was time to get around to watching the 2014 The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Now I understand why people say it’s not really a remake, not really a sequel, but more a hybrid update. As a fan of the original film, I find this movie incredibly well done. It exists almost in its own time, drifting through strange dream sequences and directly interacting with the original film or mirroring it in sometimes clever and sometimes sloppy ways. It does fall apart at the end in my opinion, but it does so in a different way from the original, so I’m glad they at least paid attention and didn’t bring in the worst bits of the original film.
Basically, in 2013 the Phantom Killer suddenly returns to Texarkana and begins a new murder spree. Instead of butchering the first female victim though, he gives her a warning to remember Mary. From there, Jami Lerner begins her own investigation while the local sheriff’s department and Texas Rangers (led by Anthony Anderson in a great performance) conduct theirs. The new Phantom Killer generally mimics the kills of the first, as portrayed in the film but also based on historical record. However, there are twists, such as the new Phantom Killer focusing not just on teenagers but older people, veterans, and even a pair of sexually curious guys who were awkwardly trying to explore themselves. Yep, not even self exploration is safe in Texarkana.
Something that I loved about the original film was out it focused on feet walking to emphasize that anyone could be the Phantom Killer. In the new The Town That Dreaded Sundown, this focus is shifted to blue eyes, which are clearly seen on many residents and often provide red herrings as to who the potential killer could be. Is someone slightly menacing? Expect them to have blue eyes. Is there a creepy looking guy in the background? He’s got blue eyes too. Up until the third act, suspects are shown but also eliminated, sometimes by the police, sometimes by the killer. It makes a clever guessing game.
All of this falls apart in the third act, by which point it is probably obvious who the killer will be (I guessed right in the first act, but it was fun seeing the red herrings play with my opinion). While there is a twist, it’s not a good one, and the end result feels cheap and not earned. It’s a shame, because the rest of the film was really strong up until that point. Yet I must also give the film credit for not trying to inject the poorly-devised humor of the original movie. That was perhaps the most ill-advised part of the original, so at least they avoided that train wreck with this one.
With all these changes, it’s hard to really say what the 2014 The Town That Dreaded Sundown is. It is not a remake. It is not really a sequel either, since it shows the original film as a movie within this movie that just inspires. No, this film is its own creation. Meta-sequel is the term used on Wikipedia; make of that what you will.
Now if only someone would continue with Charles B. Pierce’s Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues. Oh wait, that happened already…