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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.

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.