The best horror films combine all of the elements of a good tale with a dark journey — violence, terror, suspense, quasi-supernaturalism, a lone protagonist — and balance them so that variety coexists with a clear narrative. The Town That Dreaded Sundown creates a compelling tale in which the horror is a feeling of helplessness and paranoia as one might have when facing a mythological evil.
Centered in the divided town of Texarkana, which exists in both Texas and Arkansas and has duplicate governments, this film explores the cultural attachment to a serial killer from two generations before. Using shots from a 1976 movie which documented those killings, The Town That Dreaded Sundown begins its story with the possible return of that original killer or a copycat.
While the storyline itself is well-known, this 2014 film makes the best interpretation of it possible and keeps the origin mysterious throughout the film, which heightens the suspense. Its strength is in its idiosyncratic but expressive cinematography, which features odd angles, indirect focus and often room-encircling pans that create a sense of urgency and lack of control. The plot accentuates this instability by like a good Stephen King book showing human denial at every turn, enabling evil to thrive while a lone protagonist confronts it. The film uses violence and gore sparingly enough to make them shocking, and with high contrast created by film technique, allows suspense to predominate so that expectation of the horror is greater than the acts themselves.