The Town That Dreaded Sundown

Watch The Town That Dreaded Sundown

"In 1946 this man killed five people... Today he still lurks the streets of Texarkana, Arkansas."
  • R
  • 1976
  • 1 hr 26 min
  • 6.0  (9,639)
  • 52

In the year 1946, the town of Texarkana, straddling Texas and Arkansas, was in a state of fear as a masked killer dubbed "The Phantom" terrorized the area, targeting young couples on lover's lane. The film "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" is based on these real-life events and follows the investigation into the killer’s crimes by local law enforcement and Texas Ranger Captain J.D. Morales.

The town’s reaction to the killings is a mixture of panic and despair, as the killer's identity and motivation remain a mystery. The film captures the sense of unease and paranoia that gripped the sleepy rural community, as people began to lock their doors and carry weapons out of fear. The killer's penchant for wearing a white hood and playing the "The Texarkana Moonlight Murders" on a harmonica only added to the mythos and horror of the crimes.

The main character of the film is Ben Johnson's Sheriff Alvin Loftis, a grizzled veteran cop tasked with finding the elusive killer. Johnson, best known for his roles in westerns, delivers a solid performance, conveying his character's frustration and determination to end the killer's reign of terror. Andrew Prine plays Deputy Norman Ramsey, Loftis' protégé, and Dawn Wells, remembered for her role as Mary Ann on "Gilligan's Island," plays the wife of one of the victims.

The film is directed by Charles B. Pierce, who also co-wrote the screenplay. Pierce's direction is effective in capturing the town's atmosphere of dread and tension, utilizing a documentary-style approach and gritty realism reminiscent of 1970s cinema. The film's photography is evocative, capturing the isolated rural landscapes and the lights of Texarkana at night, creating a sense of menace and claustrophobic unease.

The film is not without flaws, however. At times, the film struggles with pacing, with some scenes feeling overly long and lingering. Additionally, the film's violence is relatively tame by today's standards, with only a few brief moments of graphic content.

Despite these shortcomings, "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" is an effective and chilling horror-thriller, made all the more intimidating by the fact that it is based on a true story. The film's themes of fear and paranoia remain relevant, and its influence can be seen in contemporary horror films such as David Fincher's "Zodiac" and John Carpenter's "Halloween."

In conclusion, "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" is a film that captures the prurient terror of real-life events in a compelling and effective manner. The film's documentary-style approach and gritty realism contribute to the sense of tension and unease, making it a classic of 1970s horror cinema. With its unforgettable imagery and a powerful central performance from Ben Johnson, the film remains a touchstone for horror fans and aficionados of true crime.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a 1976 horror movie with a runtime of 1 hour and 26 minutes. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.0 and a MetaScore of 52.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown
Where to Watch The Town That Dreaded Sundown
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 26 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.0  (9,639)
  • Metascore