2015 Film Essays

Style and Starlet Power: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown’


I’ve never been a dedicated viewer of the horror genre, so Charles B. Pierce’s 1976 film The Town That Dreaded Sundown has always been vaguely familiar to me. Last week, I learned that a re-fresh was available on Netflix Instant and starred one of my favorite up-and-coming actresses, Addison Timlin (Afterschool, Californication). Aesthetically, I was quite impressed and Timlin’s star power is clearly on the rise.

The American Horror Story director reunited with cinematographer Michael Goi for the serial killer tale and a swooping opening shot immediately caught my attention. It sets the tone in style and a historical montage introduces the Texarkana backstory. Once Timlin makes her first appearance, the framework for a damsel in distress scenario has been cemented and then it’s a matter of how conceptually slick (and sick) the filmmakers can be. By consistently referencing the original 1974 film, Gomez tips his cap to a genre classic while offering something new to the horror faithful.

Although The Town That Dreaded Sundown is just a slightly above average film, the duo of Gomez and Goi create a unique sense of dread with striking visuals. The stabbing scenes are especially long and brutal, while the impressive supporting cast keeps the film above water (Anthony Anderson, Gary Cole and late actors Edward Herrmann/Ed Lauter). By carrying the film with a subtle performance, Timlin proves that she’s capable of becoming a prominent Hollywood actress, and in my opinion, she’d be a perfect fit for the next Woody Allen film. She’s got it like that.

-Q.V. Hough 


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