Movie Review: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

Synopsis: In 1946, a hooded assailant begins attacking couples in Texarkana, prompting numerous law enforcement agencies to conduct one of the largest manhunts in history. As the attacks continue and the attacker's identity remains a mystery, the citizens go to great lengths to protect themselves after dark.

Who's in it? The movie stars Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine, Dawn Wells, Jimmy Clem and Cindy Butler.

Review: I absolutely love horror movies but had never found time to watch this movie even though I did see the sequel. When my wife mentioned this movie a few days ago (after having a conversation with one of her coworkers), I decided to add it to our library and give it a try. We did just that last night and, while I didn't hate the film, it wasn't what I was expecting it to be either.

I watched this thinking it would be similar to the movie Halloween. Instead, other than the fact people were being murdered, this movie reminded me more of an episode of Dukes of Hazzard.

I think the biggest problem with this film was the various attempts at comic relief, especially when it came to Texarkana's bumbling police department. While I'm fine with a comical character or two in a horror movie, this film seemed to be determined to be more funny than scary. I'm not necessarily opposed to that under normal circumstances, this is a movie that was based on real events and real people, making me feel a little uncomfortable with the light mood.

I also wasn't a huge fan of the film's editing and the way it went to great lengths to imply violence in many of the scenes but not actually show it. I'm not saying it needed to be over the top to the point it wasn't realistic but I do feel it would have had a lot more of an impact on me had it been a little more graphic. The movie did, after all, take quite a few liberties with the facts, it's not like it could be considered a documentary that might be shown to school children.

Final Opinion: The real murder case itself is intriguing and the movie does a halfway decent job of giving the basics of what happened, though not necessarily with any accuracy. Unfortunately, I just feel like this movie seems to spend a lot time making fun of the law enforcement that couldn't catch the real killer and that, in turn, made this movie a bit of a disappointment when compared to what it might have been.

My Grade: C


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