Charles B. Pierce, the man who gave us The Legend of Boggy Creek, reuses his tried and true pseudo-documentary approach for this prototypical slasher movie. It’s just after WWII and a small southern town is trying to regain a sense of normalcy. But the appearance of a hooded killer rocks the town and makes the townsfolk fearful for their lives. A Texas Ranger (Ben Johnson) is called in to help the town deputy (Andrew Prine) to find the masked murderer.
I guess this flick deserves a place in history for featuring a killer wearing a white sack on his head five years before Jason Vorhees did it in Friday the 13th Part 2. That doesn’t necessarily make it “good” though. The problem is that it’s a docudrama that’s at times more concerned with “docu” than drama. There is just way too much narration here. Sometimes it feels like a dull documentary and other times like a bad episode of Dragnet. The narration also divulges too much useless information that has no bearing on anything (unless you’re a true crime freak or something).
The first half hour of the film is its strongest. We get one or two decent stalking scenes and Pierce gives us a good sense of the town’s increasing paranoia. Once the bumbling comic relief deputy named Spark Plug appears, the tension quickly dissipates. From dressing up in drag to driving like an extra from Dukes of Hazzard, this dumbass does just about everything he can to derail the movie. I mean there are murders being committed up and down the town and this idiot is acting like a fucking Keystone Kop. What’s up with that?
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is pretty uneven, but it sure is a heck of a lot better than Boggy Creek, that’s for sure. And even though it suffers from a lot of gratuitous comic relief, I’m still sort of glad I saw it. I mean who would miss an opportunity to see Andrew Prine playing a sheriff in a 70’s movie?