Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

16 March 2008

The Town that Dreaded Sundown, dir. Charles B. Pierce (1976)

NIKKI says:
Oh, what a difference a bigger budget could have made.

This film has everything going for it -- a great story, a brilliant title, and Ben Johnson doing what he does best: playing a cop. But it suffers very badly from a low budget and a screenplay that thought comic relief was necessary in a film about a serial killer.

Still, something about this movie works. It could be that we've just got a thing for low budget crime dramas with cool titles, but it could also be that these guys, specifically writer/director Charles B. Pierce, really, really tried.

You can see it all the way through the movie. Apart from the dopey cop ripped from the Beverly Hillbillies, the inclusion of whom I cannot rightly explain, I got the impression here that Pierce thought he was making an important picture. I feel like he wanted to tell this story and really show the fear Texarkana residents experienced during the killer's rampage in 1946.

Perhaps some of the murder scenes border on exploitative, and Pierce is not too savvy when it comes to building suspense outside of the murder scenes (like Fincher does with Zodiac -- the more gripping scenes are in the investigation). Some moments do drag, too, such as the Dawn Wells chase. But there is effort here, and it's visible everywhere. It gives this feel a real engine-that-could vibe that makes me want to like it, even though I know it might just be total shlock.

I will say, too, that Pierce's direction of the opening attack scene is some of the most well-timed, well-framed scary stuff I've ever viewed. I was glad I wasn't watching at night.


STEVE says:

I'd heard so much about this, and waited so long to see it, that it really shouldn't have come as much of a surprise that it was disappointing.

It wasn't awful, it had more than its share of moments - not the least of which was the opening scene - and it made for a pretty good story. It had kind of a 1940s Zodiac thing going on. But when I realized it was Charles B. Pierce who was behind it, I knew my high expectations were never going to be met, and I should have seen the rest coming; the pointless narration, the comic relief, the "humorous" characters - all things I've seen before from Pierce in Boggy Creek II (the MST3K version, mind you), and none were done particularly well.

I would love to see this remade with an actual budget and a better director, but I guess that's too much to hope for, considering the movie hasn't even been released on DVD yet.


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