The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)
I admit I had no intentions of watching this remake (well, it’s oddly more like a sequel that retains the original’s exact title) of the original evocative and unsettling 1976 indie film, but when I heard that the remake/sequel actually referenced the original film, by not only including clips from it on a drive-in screen that the characters are watching, but by using those original (real-life based) unsolved murders as a jumping off point for this narrative, I was intrigued enough to give it a view.
Unfortunately, the only thing that turns out interesting about what is a potentially fascinating meta concept isn’t how the filmmakers explore it, but how instead their handling of it ultimately illustrates the emptiness of our consumerist times, where each idea is ultimately just another base element — no more or less worthy than any other – presented for easy audience consumption without any real weight or conscious understanding of what any of it means… or could mean.
Not surprisingly, the film has gobs of style to spare – from the constantly moving camera, the dutch angles, quick cuts and wild artificial color schemes — and the eye candy does create a certain amount of stimulation and visceral pleasure, but yet it has no idea (or perhaps no interest in) how to create any emotional connection to the characters or resonance with the often brutally violent events. The camera may whirl out of control as a silly leering couple, meeting for the first time in a long time go back to have graphic sex in a hotel room to make it feel like we’re really experiencing it with them, and loud awful music may intrude to do its best to create some kind of immediate empathy to a grandma character in the hopes that it’ll make her murder a few moments later more effective, but none of it works on anything but the most basic, surface level. The film’s tone turns broad at a moment’s notice, then suddenly attempts to be serious just a scene later… it’s anything-at-any-moment consumer storytelling, with little concern for overall narrative or emotional arc. Like a con man, or some desperate salesman, it gives you maximum stimulation in the hopes that, amongst the sound and fury, you’ll think it means something.