The Town That Dreaded Sundown: A Retrospective
Growing up near Texarkana, The Town That Dreaded Sundown always struck fear into me. Unlike Freddy, Jason, and the other greats; The Phantom killer was real. In Bowie County, Texas, The Phantom attacked eight people, killing five of them. His killing spree started February 22 and ended May 3rd in 1946, stopping just as unexpectedly as it began. The most terrifying part of all, is that no one was ever apprehended for the murders.
When the film premiered in 1976, it sent Bowie County into a frenzy. Charles Pierce got a lot of criticism for how violent the film was at the time, but he stood firmly by his decisions because the real life horrors that occurred were just as brutal. The deaths in the film are very iconic (especially the trombone kill) as well as the killer. Bud Davis nailed his role as The Phantom, although he is voiceless his sheer brutality and body movement is what makes him very memorable.
Over the years, The Town That Dreaded Sundown has gained a cult following, and with good reason. The Phantom killer was one of the first masked slashers to grace the silver screen. This is definitely a slasher film that inspired many to come and helped kickstart my favorite genre of horror. It also reminded us that sometimes real life monsters are a lot closer than you think.