Features and Columns · Movies

Local Acts of Terror: The Legacy of ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown’

Bone up on your proto-slasher history. Here’s the forgotten legacy of ‘The Town that Dreaded Sundown.’
The Town That Dreaded Sundown
American International Pictures
By  · Published on October 13th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video about the forgotten legacy of The Town That Dreaded Sundown.

If you ask a room full of horror nerds what the first North American slasher is, you’re going to get a couple of different answers.

The bulk of the crowd will likely shout that 1978’s Halloween was the first to establish the format; that when John Carpenter set a puritanical, faceless killer loose on a group of co-eds, he provided the definitive American answer to slash-happy giallo films.

At this point, every Canadian in the room is likely chopping at the bit to vouch for Bob Clark’s Black Christmas, a film about a slobbering sorority-stalking maniac (making calls from inside the house no less), that predated Halloween by four years.

And then, quietly, one person in the back might sheepishly mention The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Charles B. Pierce‘s film starkly dramatizes the very real 1946 Texarkana Moonlight Murders. In fact, in-line with his prior docu-drama, The Legend of Boggy Creek, Pierce went so far as to advertise The Town That Dreaded Sundown as “a true story.”

While the film is not exactly obscure, its contribution to the slasher genre is often unsung. In its quest to convey a sense of truthiness, The Town That Dreaded Sundown forwarded a frighteningly real truth about serial murder. Namely: that the killer it’s rarely some clownish creep, an enigmatic force of evil, or an off-putting outsider. No, the boogeyman is usually just an everyday person: your coworker, barista, neighbor, or friend.

For a deeper dive on the forgotten legacy of The Town That Dreaded Sundown check out the video essay below. It lays out the political and cultural climate in which the film was made, and why, exactly, its presence as a proto-slasher is one we keep forgetting.

Watch “The Forgotten Legacy of The Town That Dreaded Sundown“:

Who made this?

“The Forgotten Legacy of The Town That Dreaded Sundown” was created by Ryan Hollinger, a Northern Irish video essayist with a background in design and animation who specializes in horror films. Hollinger’s analysis usually takes the shape of a personal retrospective. Indulging in a healthy dose of nostalgia, Hollinger’s videos are contagiously endearing, entertaining, and informative. You can also check out Hollinger’s podcast The Carryout on SoundCloud here. And you can subscribe to Hollinger’s YouTube account here.

More Videos Like This

Related Topics: ,

Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.