Jumping ahead sixty five years, you arrive at a modern day Texarkana. It’s Halloween night and the local kids have descended upon a makeshift drive in to watch an annual replaying of the original film. Not long after, our lead actress and her boyfriend to decide leave early due to the graphic nature of the film and find a place a bit more secluded to spend their evening. Things soon turn south and you are introduced to the modern day Phantom Killer, unsure if he might be the original, or a copycat.
This particular reboot sees great success when they tie the modern film to the classic. The use of footage from the original film is handled quite cleverly. The actual film is a large point of contention for many characters in the film, uncomfortable with the idea of glorifying the horrible acts that once terrified their town. The ensuing police investigation manages to pull in even more original footage into the film. The clips are used in a seamless fashion that doesn’t feel gratuitous and actual plays into the story. It's a nice touch that helps give the film the needed connection to its roots.
As our new Phantom Killer begins to get into his groove, you're given some standard slasher scenes as he plagues the towns teenagers. While one would hope for some innovation in a modern take to differentiate itself from it’s predecessor, The Town That Dreaded Sundown falls short by playing it safe. In fact, where the movie first begins to stumble is when the filmmakers begin to lean too heavily on original scenes, using contrived setups to recreate iconic kills all while ham-fistedly reminding you that this new guy is the “Killer” and perhaps a “Legacy”.
Gomez-Rejon makes a tragic misstep early on by changing the fundamental traits that made the original Phantom Killer so scary. In this remake, the killer actually speaks, and it simply does not work. With the classic Phantom, you had zero clue as to his motivations or nature since he had no voice. Here, all tension is blown as the modern Phantom lets you know exactly what he’s up to by talking his way through all of his murders.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a reboot that fails to live up to the classic status of its predecessor. The movie works as a standard slasher but never rises to a level that makes it stand out amongst others in its sub-genre.