The Town That Dreaded Sundown review

An ace in the sun.

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Slasher smarts with guts and heart. Town is no Scream but it’s still one of the most entertaining, enterprising remakes in recent memory.

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An ace in the sun.

Do you like scary movies? Then everything you need to know about American Horror Show director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s clever meta-horror happens in one sly scene. Two teenagers smoke weed and make out in a spooky junkyard.

It’ll be no surprise that they soon become victims of the ‘Phantom Killer’ but they’re also gay (or at least experimenting) and sitting beneath a huge red arrow pointing towards a picture of the chief suspect, plus one is bumped off in a manner only seen on screen once before.

The classic kill referenced is from Charles B. Pierce’s original The Town That Dreaded Sundown from 1976, an unusual proto-slasher about a spate of unsolved murders in ’40s Texarkana. But the genius of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s script is that it acknowledges both the (real) crimes and Pierce’s (fictionalised) film, with which the modern-day townsfolk have developed a love-hate relationship.

At a drive-in screening of the 1976 Town, young lovers Jami (Addison Timlin) and Corey (Spencer Treat Clark, from Gladiator) are attacked by a familiar bag-wearing brute (inspiration for Jason in Friday The 13th Part 2 perhaps?) and the killings begin again. But is it the original, a relative dressing up as him or someone angered/inspired by Pierce’s effort?

Irreverent but fully conversant with the slasher rulebook, the 2015 Town somehow manages to be scary, gory and funny. The filmmakers not only know their genre, they love it. Timlin is charismatic, and familiar faces Gary Cole (American Gothic), Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project) and Veronica Cartwright (Alien) provide solid support. It’s too late to reinvent this wheel but there’s no denying Gomez-Rejon’s given it one hell of a spin.

More info

Theatrical release17 April 2015
DirectorAlfonso Gomez-Rejon
Starring"Addison Timlin","Veronica Cartwright","Anthony Anderson","Gary Cole","Ed Lauter"
Available platformsMovie
Freelance Writer

Matt Glasby is a freelance film and TV journalist. You can find his work on Total Film - in print and online - as well as at publications like the Radio Times, Channel 4, DVD REview, Flicks, GQ, Hotdog, Little White Lies, and SFX, among others. He is also the author of several novels, including The Book of Horror: The Anatomy of Fear in Film and Britpop Cinema: From Trainspotting To This Is England.