The Town That Dreaded Sundown: Movie Review


Before we get to the synopsis, let’s roll with a bit of history.
In the spring of 1946, a serial killer dubbed The Phantom Killer terrorized Texarkana.  Over the span of ten weeks, he attacked eight people, killing five.  Seeing as how these attacks occurred at night, they were referred to as The Texarkana Moonlight Murders.  The killer was never caught or identified.  He was reported to have worn a white mask over his head with eye holes cut out.
In 1976, The Town That Dreaded Sundown was released.  It was based on the events in 1946, but it took many liberties.  For example, the movie contained more trombone-related murders than actually occurred.
Every year, Spring Lake Park – located in Texarkana, and the sites of one of the murders – hosts Movies in the Park, where they show a series of movies on the last Thursday of every month, from May through October.  The last movie shown every year is The Town That Dreaded Sundown.

In 2014, a couple – Jami and Corey – go to a screening of The Town That Dreaded Sundown at Spring Lake Park.  They retreat to a Lover’s Lane type area (assuming those still exist) and engage in some passionate necking.  The Phantom appears and removes them both from the car.  He beats Corey with a pipe until he is motionless.  He lets Jami go, telling her, “This is for Mary. Make them remember.”  Jami returns to the drive-in at Spring Lake Park and collapses under the screen.

Thus begins our movie.  With her boyfriend dead and The Phantom returning and imploring her to “make them remember,” Jami begins researching the original murders to see what was missed, and to find out who Mary was.

My thoughts:
I was not a fan of the original movie.  Some of the kills were inventive – again, I bring up the phrase “trombone murder” – but the movie dragged and had odd moments of comic relief, courtesy of Sparkplug, a bumbling police officer played by the director (Charles B. Pierce).  It was a fine early slasher, but not one I find myself being called back to.

town-phantom-in-fieldThis movie is basically a remake, but it recognizes the original film, so it essentially works as a sequel and a remake.  The term “meta-sequel” was thrown around for this movie and I suppose that fits, even if I don’t really like that term.  I’m old.  Your new terminology frightens and confuses me.

Let’s see…didn’t like original movie…scared by the younger generation…what else…
Oh yeah.  This movie.


I loved this movie.  A straight remake would have been perfectly fine, but the twist elevated it to another level.  It added a new dimension and allowed it to play just as well as its own movie as a remake.  There were just enough red herrings thrown in to keep me off balance.

town-jami-coreySince this is a slasher movie, let’s talk about the kills.  OH, THE KILLS.  They were violent and nasty and wonderful.  They nodded back to the original (hello again, trombone), while adding in some fun new visuals.

The cast was great.  The atmosphere was great.  This movie is great.  It’s always nice to find a modern slasher that expands beyond, “Let’s just kill a bunch of horny teenagers,” if only slightly.

Rating: 5/5

Cabin Fever: Movie Review

cabin fever - poster

This is a pretty much shot-for-shot remake of Cabin Fever (originally released in the not-so-distant past of 2002).  There has been a lot of negative discussion about the fact that this remake even exists, but I had two things in my favor going into this:
1. I’m not a particularly big fan of the original Cabin Fever.  It’s fine, but I never understood the love it gets.

2. I don’t really have an issue with remakes.

With that in mind, I waited until my child was asleep and I fired this up.  Oh, the excitement.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the plot, Cabin Fever follows 5 college students as they head out to a cabin for a weeklong vacation.  They have a run-in with a hobo who has been infected with a flesh-eating virus.  They set him on fire (as you do) and try to put the incident behind them, only to start showing signs of the disease themselves.
There is also a dog named Dr. Mambo who may be trying to eat them.

cabin fever - dr mambo

All caught up?

Two minutes in I knew I was in trouble.  While it wasn’t exactly shot-for-shot (they carved a lot of script out), it was pretty close.  However, the acting wasn’t as good, the music was louder than it had any reason to be and any humor that existed had been stripped away.  That left me watching a poorly written movie played deadly serious.  They said every line so earnestly it made Marky Mark’s character in The Happening blush.

"This cabin has meaning to me!"
“This cabin has meaning to me!”

I spent most of the movie trying to figure out who this was made for.  As I mentioned at the top, the original came out in 2002.  It is also held up in horror circles as a cult classic.  I know there are many people out there who fell in love with the horror genre due in no small part to that movie.
This movie wasn’t made for them.  Those people loved the original.  Since this added absolutely nothing, there was no reason for this movie to take the place of their beloved original.  Nor should it.
And that’s not even talking about Cabin Fever/Eli Roth superfans.  I am not a superfan of either, yet I’ve been a horror fan long enough that I have seen the original more than once.

Was this made for new fans?  I suppose you could make that case, but I don’t understand the point.  Yes, it has been 14 years since the original came out, but I feel like it has aged pretty well.  The effects still look good, which is one of the most important things to consider for an older movie.  I mentioned that they cut a lot out of the script, but I believe the only things they added in were a couple of lines about video games and the internet.  That tells me they didn’t feel a huge need to punch up the script to make it more modern.  The original is out there.  I feel like new horror fans would know Cabin Fever by reputation and would seek out the original.  Maybe they wouldn’t.  Maybe they’ll watch this one because it’s new, but this is just a worse version of the original.  If the filmmakers attempted to differentiate it, I would be able to see the point.  But they didn’t.  It’s a dim copy of the original.

cabin fever - doorway

It doesn’t use the set-up to reveal anything new about the genre: to poke fun at its foibles.  (With Cabin in the Woods just having come out in 2012, that would have been redundant anyway.)  They could have taken this as a chance to show how far horror has come since 2002.  This was released on VOD.  Why not take it a little further?  Throw some more carnage at us.  I’m not saying I necessarily wanted to see more carnage, but at least that would be something different.  You’re on VOD.  Go wild.

I wanted to see them either go the route of carnage or go the route of laughs.  Maybe both.  Instead, they made the exact same movie.  It did nothing new with the genre or the source material.

cabin fever - dr mambo & Marcy

But maybe they didn’t want to do that.  “I want to do a remake where I don’t add any humor but I also don’t actually show a woman getting eaten by a dog.”  That’s fine.  In that situation, the least you can do is change up the order or method of the kills.
By my count, only one death differed from the original in terms of timing.  It was pushed up just enough that it took me off guard.  The rest of the deaths pretty much took place using the exact same beats as the original.  There were some tweaks in the method in which they died, but not huge tweaks.  Because of this, I never felt uneasy.  I never felt like this movie was going to show me something I hadn’t already seen.  With the element of suspense gone, all that was left was to rely on the rest of the elements of the movie to keep me invested, but they weren’t good enough (or different enough) to do that.  I wanted a little danger.  A little uncertainty.
Deputy Winston was a female in this version.  So that’s something different, I guess.

cabin fever - deputy winston

Just because there was no danger or uncertainty doesn’t mean the music didn’t reach ear-shattering levels when a scene was building to a “shocking conclusion” that we already knew about.  I felt like I could hear the director screaming, “FEEL SOMETHING,” every time the music reached a fever pitch.

You won’t catch me saying good things about the Psycho remake, but you can at least see what they were going for.  They were trying to bring the story of Psycho into a new era, where people may have been inclined to say, “I’m not watching Psycho because it’s in black and white.”  (That being said, there is no reason to watch the remake of Psycho because the original is perfect in every way.)  If nothing else, that’s a somewhat valid reason to remake a movie.  Aside from, “We wanted to make another sequel but the last one did so horribly that we decided to reboot the original instead,” there is no reason to remake this movie using the exact same script.
As it turns out, that’s the exact reason this movie exists.  Cabin Fever: Patient Zero didn’t bring in much money when it was released on VOD, at which point the thoughts of another sequel went out the window and the idea of a remake surfaced, with the hopes of reviving the series. By using the same script, it meant they were able to get right into making the movie.  “None of this writing nonsense to bog us down,” I’m sure they said to each other. (One source reported it made $0 on VOD, but that can’t be right.)

cabin fever - bunny kid

I have spent a lot of time comparing it to the original, because it’s hard not to with a movie like this.  But let me take a moment to talk about this movie without referencing the original.
It was fine, I guess.  I didn’t like a single character, so I felt nothing when they died.  The make-up was pretty good.  After a bit of a slow start, the last 30 minutes was jam-packed with action.  Some of it was fun, but, again, the insanely loud music took me out of the moment more than once, and the acting wasn’t good enough to take any of it seriously.
The gore was good.  The deaths were entertaining, with at least one of them making me a little uneasy.
It’s not a good movie, but it’s not totally without merit.  If I stumbled across this late at night and knew nothing about it, I’m sure I would have been somewhat entertained.

This is a below-average movie that gets dinged pretty heavily for being an exact copy of a well-regarded horror movie.  I’m not offended that this exists.  I’m not mad or disappointed.  More than anything, I’m just confused.

Rating: 0/5

I will say that I didn’t miss Eli Roth’s stoner Grim.  I always hated that character.  Grim was much more subdued (and more than a little threatening) in this version, and I kind of liked that.

Poltergeist (2015): Movie Review

poltergeist - poster

As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, I got into horror pretty late in my life.  I remember watching some horror in my early teens, but it didn’t really hook me until my mid-to-late-twenties.
Maybe that is the reason the trend of remaking treasured horror movies doesn’t really bother me. Even if I really like an older horror film, I don’t have the nostalgia for it that a lot of people do.  (Then again, I watched Ghostbusters many times as a child and am still hyped for the remake, so maybe nostalgia doesn’t really play into my views on this at all.)
I’ve seen the original Poltergeist many times.  It’s a perfectly fine movie, but it’s also quite dated.  After the Nightmare on Elm Street remake (which I enjoyed), I remember telling someone that if there was one movie from that era I would really like to see remade, it would be Poltergeist.  I believe the response to that statement was a slap in the face.

poltergeist - mud skeletons
But someone was listening, because I got my wish.  And, to cap it off, this version stars Sam Rockwell.  Oh man, I love Sam Rockwell so much.

poltergeist - family
As it turns out, this movie – like the original – is perfectly fine.  The cast is great, it looked good, and there were a couple pretty creepy moments.  There were also a handful of completely nonsensical moments, but I enjoyed those as well.  It’s 93 minutes long.  It gets you in, shows you some scary stuff and gets you out.  It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s perfectly serviceable as a piece of starter horror for someone trying to get into the genre.  Or even for a normal horror fan looking for something kind of fun to throw on.

Rating: 2.5/5

A couple random moments that made me laugh:

– Griffin (the little boy) was, quite possibly, the most scared child I have ever seen in a movie.  So what do they do?  Why, put him in the room with the secret clown closet, naturally.

poltergeist - clown
Eric (Sam Rockwell’s character) says earlier in the movie how he can’t support the family on a high school baseball coach salary.  So what happens at the end?  He gets a job as a high school baseball coach and they’re looking at pretty big houses.  Because that’s how life works.

31 Days of Horror Day 22: The Amityville Horror

Amityville Horror - Poster

Original vs. Remake?
That’s a debate that rages throughout the horror community.  The general consensus is that the original is better.  I tend to fall on that side of things myself.  Even when I like a remake (which happens quite often), I still usually prefer the original.  I don’t have a long history with horror, so liking the original Nightmare on Elm Street over the remake has nothing to do with nostalgia, or any kind of “back in my day”  speeches.  To me – and most people – the original is just a better movie.  I can like both, but I have to pick a favorite, and the remake usually loses.

Amityville Horror - George in rain

But it doesn’t always lose.  This remake is far superior to the original.  The original just feels so slow and plodding, and never once really feels scary.  Maybe it was different when it was first released, but it did not age well.  It’s not a bad movie, but it’s pretty cheesy, and that’s hard to ignore.

"Call me cheesy, will ya?"
“Call me cheesy, will ya?”

The remake has some genuinely scary and unnerving moments, as well as Ryan Reynolds nailing the slow unraveling of George Lutz’s psyche.
I’m a big fan of this movie, and watch it every year around this time.  It’s not true in all cases, but, in this case, remake trumps original.

31 Days of Horror Day 7: Evil Dead

Evil Dead

Listen guys.  It has been a rough couple of weeks at work.  Things are changing around, and it’s just been really stressful.  I’m sure it’ll clear up at some point, but who knows when.  Some days all I can think of is this quote from Groundhog Day: “It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be grey, and it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.”  (In an odd twist, it has been cold and grey here in Kentucky lately, and that has actually made me a little happier.)

Sometimes I get in moods like this and I just want to watch something nasty.  I want to watch something with limbs being hacked off and blood raining from the sky.  I want to watch something like that so I can point to it and say, “At least my life is better than theirs.  At least I didn’t slip on a patch of my significant other’s face-skin.  At least I didn’t have to cut my infected hand off with an electric knife.”  Sometimes it’s action (after the Packers were knocked out of the playoffs last year, I went with Dredd), but this time of year it’s always horror.

So join me as I watch a group of kids get turned into monsters and do terrible, awful things to themselves and those around them.  It’s October 7!  Let blood rain from the sky!

It’s worth noting that one of my favorite lines of this movie is when the girl at the beginning says, “I will rip your soul out, daddy.”  That always sends chills down my spine.

(There might be something wrong with me.)

Evil Dead Basement Door