Despite taking over three hours to get through, I actually really enjoyed this movie. The first film, which I reviewed earlier this month, was forgotten soon after its release, although this movie points out that in Texarkana this isn't actually the case as they apparently have a screening of it every halloween. Is it true? Who knows, but I don't really know a single person who'd heard of the original film before the trailer for this one was released, myself included. It went under the radar, which really shouldn't have happened. If Friday the 13th got ten or so sequels then it's about time that The Town That Dreaded Sundown got one. And yes, this film is a sequel. Don't listen to anyone who calls this film a reboot or a remake, or something along those lines. It's a sequel. It's like the 22 Jump Street of horror sequels. It acknowledges the existence of the original, more so than 22 Jump Street did, and it uses this to its advantage. The characters in this movie know the film exists and they use it to study the moves of the killer, which is actually quite an intelligent move on the writer's behalf.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a shockingly and surprisingly violent movie with plenty of suspense to go with it. The film can actually get quite violent, most of this violence being completely unexpected and detailed with gore. A scene where The Phantom terrorises a young woman in a hotel room escalates very quickly, going so far as to show a close up of her broken leg after she jumps from a window. The Phantom brings with him a much darker tone this time around, exceeding the levels of gore, sex and maturity of the original. The humour is gone, thankfully, and the scares are brought in. He appears at the most unexpected of times and doesn't leave until we've practically hit the edge of our seats. This film still won't bring The Phantom all the recognition that he deserves, but it's certainly a start.
The ending is rather complex to discuss spoiler-free, but I'm going to anyway. The film ends on a very suspenseful and threatening note. It's both predictable and unpredictable, but I can't really elaborate on that too much without delving into spoilers. Hey, at least this film had an ending, unlike the original. In fact, this film actually had a specific narrative it was following. And it had continuity. And it had a protagonist. And it had realistic scenarios. This film's second act drags on occasion, but that's it. Wow, it's not until you get a better version of something that you realise how mediocre the last one was. Wait, that's not right, is it?
To sum up, The Town That Dreaded Sundown may have taken me over three hours to get through, but it's a suspenseful, shockingly violent, 22 Jump Street-like sequel to a horror film that didn't quite get the recognition that it deserves.
3 1/2 Stars