The Town That Dreaded Sundown
dir Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
scr Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
prd Jason Blum, Ryan Murphy
with Addison Timlin, Travis Tope, Veronica Cartwright, Anthony Anderson, Ed Lauter, Edward Herrmann, Gary Cole, Denis O'Hare, Joshua Leonard, Spencer Treat Clark, Arabella Field, Andy Abele
release US 16.Oct.14, UK 10.Apr.15
14/US Orion 1h26
The Town That Dreaded Sundown
Caught on Lovers Lane: Clark and TImlin

cartwright anderson cole
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Town That Dreaded Sundown There may be too much postmodernism in this horror sequel for its own good, but at least the filmmakers take a fresh approach to the genre. Instead of just going for gleeful grisliness, this is an intriguingly emotional thriller. So every time someone dies, there's a pang of loss. And first-time feature director Gomez-Rejon's artful visual style adds further interest.

Texarkana is still haunted by the unsolved 1946 murders that inspired a classic cult-horror film in 1976. Now, during the movie's annual Halloween screening, a copycat killer is on the rampage. He seems to be specifically tormenting teen Jami (Timlin), whose boyfriend (Clark) was the first victim. Raised by her no-nonsense grandma (Cartwright) after her parents died, Jami is determined to get to the root of things, so she teams up with archive clerk Nick (Tope). Meanwhile, Texas Ranger Morales (Anderson) leads the local cops (including Leonard, Tillman and Lauter) on the case.

The meta-layers in this movie are definitely over-worked, as it tries to retell a true story while also working as both a sequel and a backstage drama. Sometimes this leaves it feeling more like a reboot of the Scream franchise than anything else, although the dialog's referential wit avoids parody, and the characters emerge as genuinely likeable. As a result, there are people we really don't want to die, which gives the killing spree an eerily moving vibe that sneaks up on us.

Timlin has a likeable presence at the film's centre, offering an astute perspective through which we can dig into the central mystery. Not that it's hugely likely that a teen who watched her boyfriend being brutally murdered would be quite this keen to do her own detective work. But then the cops are all chuckleheads (and nicely played as such), the local preacher (the late-great Herrmann) is clearly a nutcase and now Granny might be the only way out of town.

So it's a bit disappointing that the plot itself gets caught up in its own jokiness, indulging in a series of climaxes too on-the-nose to work dramatically, even if they'll please horror fans. But those fans will already have lost interest because of the movie's oddly serious tone, which strips the fun away from the gleeful violence (although the sex is still pretty ridiculous). So in the end, the film is tricky and clever, but not very satisfying.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 27.Jan.15

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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall