The Town That Dreaded SundownLondon Film Festival 2014
Saturday 18th October, 8.45pm – Vue West End, Screen 7
There are scarce few 1970s horror films that haven’t been subjected to some kind of cannabalistic re-imagining, ranging from the unutterably dire The Wicker Man to the tolerable The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And so, steps forward from the cult shadows The Town That Dreaded Sundown, set in the quintessential American town of Texerkana, which is tormented by the bag-headed Phantom Killer, wielding the knife made legend by local folk hero James Bowie.
The first thing about this modern reboot by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon is that it makes very credible efforts to paint using alternative brush strokes from the conventional horror remake. For a start, the 1976 original is very much woven into the narrative, as a recurring nightmare for the town to grapple with, as every Halloween the drive-in theatre shows the film to young couples and intoxicated teens. The way the original events are seeped through the consciousness of the townspeople is well achieved, and lends a certain credibility once the Phantom embarks on a new rampage. For is this that popular blame figure propagated by American conservatives, the twisted mind corrupted by violent media?
The film is bloody and brutal, and there’s plenty of suspense and shock to keep even the most hardened of horror aficionados reasonably content. Along with a chilling soundtrack and a grainy 70s aesthetic, light seems to glow with an unnatural saturation, giving it a layer of almost Twin Peaks unreality.
Of course, as much as it attempts to subvert the notion of the remake, the generic tropes of the slasher genre are rigorously adhered to, from Halloween and Friday the 13th, to the eventual pay-off that follows a little too neatly that of Scream. Where the film is refreshing though is in its depiction of a town haunted by past atrocities, the institutions in which they seek comfort, and the notion that bad things will inevitably resurface no matter how deeply they might be buried in the past.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown release date is yet to be announced.
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