The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1975)

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I cannot remember how I first heard about The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1975) but when I saw the poster I knew I had to track down a copy of this rare serial killer thriller. This film has never been, and is probably unlikely to be, released on DVD so I was most thankful to find that some kind soul had uploaded a VHS rip of this to download.

The Town that Dreaded Sundown is very loosely based on the real life Texarkana Moonlight Murders from 1946 where a serial killer known only as the ‘Phantom Killer’ wounded three and killed five. Witnesses stated that he wore a canvas hood to hide his face. Some of the attacks were brutally savage. The scenes in the film that feature the killer are well filmed and are quite unsettling. The killer’s heavy breathing and hooded appearance is surprisingly creepy. The scene where the Phantom murders a female victim with her trombone is the most disturbing sequence in the film but this method of murder was fictitious and not based on the actual case. I also wonder whether the canvas hood influenced the look of Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)?

Otherwise the film is quite slow. There are some humorous elements that seem a little out of place and unnecessary though seeing male police officers dressed as female decoys to try and catch the killer is quite amusing. I did enjoy the film but expected much more from it. I will definitely try and track down the original poster though, there is one on eBay that I currently have my eye on. It would be nice to a better quality version of the film, the copy I downloaded was watchable but far too dark during the nighttime scenes. I am told that the film was recently shown on American television in it’s original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and was also shown on the big screen. Hopefully this interesting movie will surface on DVD in the near future.

As for the Texarkana Murders the Phantom Killer was never found and the case remains unsolved to this day. I am surprised that this case has not received as much attention as other unsolved serial murder cases. There are also some interesting parallels to the Zodiac case here too, such as the shooting of couples in cars on lover’s lanes. More on the Texarkana Murders can be found here.

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