Hot on the heels of Metrodome releasing the remake, here comes Eureka with their dual format DVD & Blu-ray release of Charles B Pierce’s original docu-slasher. It’s one of those movies remembered with fearful fondness by kids growing up in the UK in the 1970s (another would be INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN) simply because the trailer was one of the few for a horror film to be played frequently (and terrifyingly) on ITV regions during daylight hours. But is it actually any good?
“The incredible story you are about to see is true...Only the names have been changed.” Starting in true exploitation fashion with a Kolchak-style voiceover (which keeps popping up at increasingly annoying intervals to break the mood), TOWN veers between (at times) plodding police procedural and some truly excellent murder sequences.
March 1946: months after the second world war has drawn to a close, the town of Texarkana is terrorised by a masked killer who strikes randomly and without warning. The police, including Deputy Norman Ramsey (exploitation veteran Andrew Prine) are baffled, and Captain J D Morales (Ben Johnson) is called in to organise the forces. Despite their best efforts (and a chase near the end) they never catch him.
It’s not an entirely accurate representation of events, of course, but TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN sits very respectably between the backwoods scuzz of Tobe Hooper’s TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and John Carpenter’s suburban-set HALLOWEEN, both chronologically and thematically. There’s no doubting the horror of the suspense bits, but the rest of the time you’re sitting watching the police and waiting for the next good bit to happen. This interim sequences are not helped by the addition of some painfully unfunny comedy featuring the director himself as an incompetent police officer. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so noticeable if the scary bits weren’t so good.
And they ARE good. The sack-headed killer is an excellent horror ‘creation’, predating FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 and many other movies that have copied the look since. Unlike those, this killer speaks, and where that would normally detract from the horror, here it actually adds to it because you’re being reminded that the killer isn’t some deformed horror comics creation but someone you could walk past in the street and not recognise.
Eureka’s dual-disc set offers a decent widescreen presentation similar to the Scream Factory Region A release. Extras are similar too. We get the commentary track from case historian Jim Presley, interviews with cast and crew, a trailer, and an optional isolated music and effects track. There’s also a trailer for the 2014 remake to round the package off nicely.
Eureka are releasing Charles B Pierce's original THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN on dual format Region 2 DVD and Region B Blu-ray on 24th August 2015