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As The Town That Dreaded Sundown is more of an exploitation movie than a story-based movie, it doesn't really follow the story of any one particular character. Instead, it focusses in on the small town of Texarkana in the late 40s. Here, the small quiet town is suddenly thrown into a whirl of violence, chaos and fear when a mysterious masked murderer known as 'The Phantom' begins on his murder spree. Together, the police and Captain J.D. Morales (Ben Johnson) must hunt down this serial killer before he kills once again.
If you can acknowledge and ignore all of its flaws, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a pretty decent flick. There's no way that you can get me to say that this film doesn't have a lot of flaws. If I do then I have either forgotten what film I was watching or I'm lying. I'll get into the negatives later, but for now I'll discuss how entertaining this film is. It's highly engrossing. I don't know why, perhaps it's because the new film looks so damn awesome, but I really wanted to like this movie. So much so that I feel as if I forced myself to have fun with this film. It doesn't have a lot going for it, so perhaps I liked it out of sympathy. We'll never know why. What we do know is that this film can be very suspenseful when it wants to be. The shocking choice to have minimal amount of score becomes even more shocking when it begins to work, its vicious and violent murder scenes relying on the sounds of mother nature to raise our heart rate. It works, and that's all I care about. Although these scenes all tended to drag on for a little bit, they're still engaging to watch.
The film is wildly inconsistent. It's not inconsistent in plot, that's jumpy, but not inconsistent It's the editing and the sound design that's inconsistent. There's a scene during the first act where one of the officers goes to investigate a gun shot he hears when driving his car in the rain. The film cuts from a shot with him standing in the rain to a close up shot of him standing, but with no rain, just the sound of rain. Also, the background sounds in a few of the scenes, a car scene in particular, were distractingly bad. The audio cuts when the shot cuts, causing a change in pitch, pace and volume for the backdrop sound effects. While it may go to show that this film was made with practical props and weather, something I'm nearly always fond of, the execution on the sound design just didn't work for me.
Let's go back to the murder scenes for just a little bit, the final one in particular. Before each of The Phantom's victims are killed, sometimes more painfully than others, the narrator provides us with the date of the murder and some background information on the victims. Since this film doesn't follow a three act structure to a wild degree, the film tries to cheat its way into providing us with character information. It doesn't really work either, unfortunately. It comes across as cheap and tasteless, providing the filmmakers with an easy solution. Now, as for the ending. The ending isn't necessarily a murder sequence, as I implied just before, but I won't go into details about it either. The ending begins seemingly satisfying. It's fast and thrilling, providing suspense and violence to crave your needs for horror. Just when it seems like everything is about to escalate to a whole new level, the film cuts to its closing narration and then ends. It's not an abrupt ending, but it's certainly an ambiguous one. The Town That Dreaded Sundown always tends to have more potential than it does pay-off, and the ending is the best example for this.
To sum up, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a highly flawed horror movie, with inconsistent sound mixing, murder scenes that all tend to drag and an ambiguous ending, but if you can ignore these flaws then it's a highly entertaining flick.