The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976)

I was browsing around on Amazon Prime this morning and I came across a film with a title that caught my attention. The Town that Dreaded Sundown was a fascinating title for a movie and then when I read the synopsis, I was all in for the next film in the DailyView.

It is loosely based on a series of cases that actually happened back in Texarkana in the 1940s. A man in a mask, who would become known as the Phantom Killer, attacked several couples out on “lover’s lane”, injuring the first ones and then killing others. The local police put out a manhunt during the time for the predator, but they were never able to capture him.

This is considered one of the first slasher films, being an inspiration for many to come. This feels like it is taking advantage of the real life Zodiac Killer who had been terrorizing San Francisco over the last few years. In this movie, the Phantom Killer does much the same as Zodiac did at his beginning. He would approach parked cars with couples inside and he would attack them. The Phantom used a gun a couple of times, which Zodiac did as well (though Zodiac used a knife too).

The hooded face also made on think back to the Zodiac, in particular with the famous moment in the park.

It was also nice to see Dawn Wells (RIP) appearing here after her years on Gilligan’s Island. I will admit to her presence being a distraction because… hey! it’s Mary Ann! Still, I am happy she was able to get work outside the island.

The film had some truly noticeable tone shifts. In fact, there were a couple of times when I thought the film had gone from a horror/crime film to a slapstick comedy. Those moments did not work at all with the story and were major problems for the narrative.

The film was told in a mock documentary style, which worked much better. If I were redoing this movie, I would lean heavier on that documentary and use that framing device much more freely.

It was a decent little movie, but there was not much about it that stood out.

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