Wicked Wednesday

Wicked Wednesday: Don’t Look Under the Bed (1999)

What a week it has been. WHAT A WEEK. All the worry and stress of the last few days has reduced me to watching yet another Disney Channel Original movie. When in doubt, check your mind out with a mindless movie, right?

Don’t Look Under the Bed is a movie I certainly remember existing when I was a kid. But upon watching it, I discovered I didn’t remember a thing about it.

It’s got all the usual makings of a Disney Channel ‘horror’ movie: there is vaguely creepy creature designs, a plucky MC who is a bit quirky, and the zany family that never existed on any plane of reality. There’s never any real terror, but it’s certainly enough to keep a kid up at night.

Frances is a smart, realistic girl. She believes in facts and all things proven. When strange things begin to happen around her small town, she tries her best to explain it away.

But soon Frances notices a boy around town. He continues to mysteriously appear and disappear throughout her day. When she finally confronts her, he seems surprised she notices him at all before vanishing again.

Frances eventually corners the boy and learns that he is Larry Houdini: imaginary friend. She realises that she is the only person who can see him. Stuck with the eccentric character, Frances learns that it’s the Boogey Man who is causing all of her problems. As things get stranger, Frances becomes the number one suspect in the pranks.

Larry admits to Frances that he was once her little brother Darwin’s former imaginary friend. Frances told Darwin to start believing in science and less imagination when he was diagnosed with leukemia.

Due to Frances’s meddling, Larry is slowing turning into a Boogey Man as well. When the Boogey Man takes Darwin, Larry and Frances must team up to go under the bed and get him back.

Under the bed (called Boogeyworld – a complete missed opportunity not naming it Boogeyland), the team come face-to-face with a Boogey Man. Once a frightened Darwin begs for Larry’s help, Larry returns to normal.

Frances later realises that the Boogey Man who kidnapped Darwin is her own childhood imaginary friend. By calling the Boogey Man by its name, Zoe, the imaginary friend breaks from her Boogey Man shell.

When the team return to the real world, they realise that the trouble isn’t quite over with yet.

This is a pretty cute made-for-TV movie. I can see why it is one of the more iconic ones of its era. These candy-coloured 90s movies are still pretty decades later. The solid practical effects and make-up stop it from looking too dated (but yes, it looks pretty silly in some bits).

Without having any nostalgia for the movie, I can’t say I genuinely loved it. But it is funny with some solid performances from Erin Chambers and Ty Hodges as Frances and Larry. I would certainly recommend it to anyone with a young family for Halloween.

Watching some of these wholesome children’s movies can be nice. It’s not going to change the world, but Don’t Look Under the Bed is a nice bit of wholesomeness if you’re brain is too fried.

Wicked Wednesday: Are You Afraid of the Dark? S3E1 “The Tale of the Midnight Ride”

I swear London’s 90-degree+ heatwave was only last week. How have we landed in autumn already?

This year is a weird time paradigm. It’s both going incredibly fast, and yet anything that happened before March literally feels like a lifetime ago. So believe it or not, Halloween season is already upon us.

Calling to me this week was the familiar and comfortable. And where best to start than with an episode of my forever-favourite Are You Afraid of the Dark? (Still waiting on getting those episodes of the 2019 miniseries over in the UK. Hint-hint.)

Turns out episode 1 of the third season is very Halloween-y indeed.

In the third season, we see the exit of two members of the Midnight Society, David and Kirsten. Weirdly, I always remembered Kirsten being around a lot longer than she was. This episode introduces us to Tucker, Gary’s brother and one of the more memorable kids from the show.

It’s his responsibility to prove he has what it takes to be a part of the society. He begins with a classic ghost story: a twist on the Legend of Sleepy Hallow.

In modern-day Sleepy Hallow, Ian is the new kid at school. He quickly befriends Katie, a classmate with a seriously obnoxious ex-boyfriend. They bond as they get ready for the Halloween dance together, much to the chagrin of the ex, Brad.

The night of the dance both Ian and Katie arrive in their finest colonist gear. They hit it off and dance together, but soon Brad gets involved. He tells Ian that he has to retrieve the pumpkin from the bridge in order to be “initiated”.

Despite Katie’s insistence that no one has ever done this, Ian decides to take on Brad’s challenge. Only of course when he arrives, he falls for Brad’s Headless Horseman prank. Despite looking foolish at overreacting to Brad’s prank, Ian still wins over Katie. The two decide to walk home together.

Before they can leave the woods, Ian helps a lone horseman with directions – the man is lead away from the bridge.

When Ian and Katie are later back at the school, they come face-to-face with the real Headless Horseman. They must use their wits and knowledge of the legend to beat the spirit.

This episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? isn’t a particularly memorable one. Though it is still a crowd-pleaser with both the society and me (and that’s what truly matters). It certainly puts you straight into the Halloween mood.

Children’s shows can often be the best source of Halloween fun. And I think this episode really is a prime example of it. Sure it’s not ground-breaking, but the slightly-silly costumes and the use of one of America’s best ghost stories are excellent.

So Halloween season is officially off to a good start. While I normally don’t go for Halloween content this early on the blog, why the hell not this year? What are your favourite shows or films to revisit for Halloween?

I’m quarantining with my sister for two weeks in October, and it will be up to her what we watch. So, I guess look forward to that?

(Ps: Shudder are currently celebrating 61 days of Halloween. Join in!)

Wicked Wednesday: Solstice (2008)

This week’s movie taught me two things:

  1. How to spell solstice.
  2. 2000’s title graphics are the worst.

And perhaps a third: sometimes when you make one of the most influential movies of all time, it’s really difficult to make a worthy follow-up.

Solstice is the third movie from director Daniel Myrick, who was the co-director of The Blair Witch Project. Arguably one of the most ambitious independent films of all time. One of the first to really use the internet to its advantage to create a mythos bigger than “just a movie”.

So when you make something so creative, where do you go from there? Well…I guess it’s making one of the most cookie-cutter horror remakes you can.

Now I don’t dislike Solstice. Though it’s difficult to have any strong feelings about it. It’s pretty damn boring.

In some ways, the premise very similar to Midsommar (which had to have taken plenty of inspiration from the Danish Midsommer, of which Solstice is based on). A girl seeks peace following the death of her sister. Let me know why so many vaguely-pagan movies love dead sisters. Thanks.

Following the suicide of Megan’s twin sister, Sophie, the Christmas before, Megan goes to her family’s beach house for some rest. Tagging along with her is her motley group of friends – including Sophie’s former boyfriend.

It’s not easy having fun around a girl whose sister just died. And the weekend is essentially ruined by Megan’s assistance that her sister is haunting her. She keeps finding the toy bear on a keychain that Sophie died with. No matter how much she tries to get rid of it, the little bear finds its way back.

When Megan meets Nick, the boy from a local gas station, she finds a kindred spirit. The two bond over local midsummer folklore. Nick gives her a magazine on local traditions and later explains to her that midsummer is when the world of the dead is closest to the living.

As the weekend moves along, Megan becomes more tightly wound. Following a meeting with a local gent, she begins to suspect that there is more to the mystery around Sophie’s death than she originally believed.

The mystery is semi-decent. If you’re willing to sit through a few slow-moving scenes, Solstice isn’t too shabby. In some ways, it subverted all my expectations by not being a slasher. Though I think the movie could have done with a good killing. Just for a bit of spice, I guess. But this movie is certainly one thing: forgettable.

I often believe that making a movie that evokes nothing from its viewers can be the worst type of movie. If I hadn’t had The Blair Witch Project on my mind so much recently, I might not have ever taken the time to watch this. And going forward, the only thing I’ll probably remember about this one is who the director is.

Wicked Wednesday: Season of the Witch (1973)

There seems to be something about horror movies called Season of the Witch that really piss people off. This week’s George A Romero film has quite a few things in common with the Halloween instalment it shares its name with.

For one, they’re both breaking from their moulds. Halloween III was notoriously the first in the franchise that didn’t feature Michael Myers. For that, it was slated by both fans and critics. Thankfully it’s been resurrected in recent years. I, for one, adore it and all its zaniness.

While Romero’s Season of the Witch isn’t hated exactly, it’s certainly frequently overlooked. There are pockets of his filmography that horror fans tend to simply skip over for lack of the undead.

Following the comedy There’s Always Vanilla, Romero returns to the genre that made him famous, if only with a lighter touch.

Joan is a bored housewife. She’s ignored by her husband and seemingly lives a rather unfulfilling life. When she learns that a practising witch has moved into the neighbourhood, Joan begins to develop an interest in the occult.

Soon after, Joan meets Gregg, an acquaintance and casual sexual partner of her freewheelin’ daughter, Nikki. The tension between Joan and Gregg quickly grows, both emotional and sexual.

Nikki soon flees the house after she learns that her mother has heard her having sex with Gregg one night. Distraught, Joan tries to locate her runaway daughter. This brings her even closer to Gregg, especially once she starts dabbling in magic.

Using her new powers, Joan begins to pull Gregg nearer to her while her husband is away yet again. But she’s also plagued by nightmares of being attacked in the night.

When things finally come to a head for Joan, it’s difficult to tell what she really wants. If the tragedies in her life are an accident or of her own making.

Night of the Living Dead had a lot of different subtexts. On the surface, though, it could be discounted as a zombie film, making it easy for most people to digest (hehe). If you didn’t agree with Romero’s politics, you can focus on the zombies. But Season of the Witch is not subtle. At all.

Throughout the film, there’s a constant repetition of several themes and imagery: the use of a leash and collar around Joan’s neck, the masked intruder, the ways people manipulate each other with different forms of “magic”. Romero has plenty to say on it all: the toxic masculinity that still lingered from the 50s, the counterculture of the 60s and 70s, and the struggle of living in a world in between the two.

It had a surrealist take on 70s feminism that reminded me of similar genre movies like The Witch Who Came from the Sea that followed a few years later. Both, incidentally, are bizarre and a bit uneven. Though there’s something very powerful about stories from that era when they are focused on themes of liberation.

Apparently the movie suffered greatly before its release. The budget was slashed. The distributors dismantled it and tried to turn it into softcore porno. There are certainly reasons why this movie isn’t as successful as some of Romero’s other works. But I think the themes and the way they are attacked (plus some great acting from Jan White as Joan) make this memorable, if soft and understated.

Season of the Witch probably won’t please most Romero fans who are looking for more in the way of the gore in Land or Dawn of the Dead. But if you love Romero for his ability to bring real-life horrors into the supernatural realm, there is definitely something to be gained by watching it.

Wicked Wednesday: The Last Broadcast (1998)

A couple weeks back I talked about how much I enjoyed Host but am dreading the inevitable half-assed copy-cats that will appear in its wake.

It’s a common thing in the movie industry, though. Something does really well, so that must mean we want 1,000 versions of it, right? The horror genre can be particularly bad at this: slasher movie franchises and countless reboots that no one wanted.

Now I had never heard of The Last Broadcast before. But inspired by our enjoyment of Host, my husband and I began looking into found-footage movies that we’d never seen before. The Last Broadcast seemed interesting to me as it appeared just before the mammoth Blair Witch Project was released in 1999.

In a number of articles I read, both films are blamed for copying the other. But in the early era of the internet, it would be almost impossible to rip the other off. Especially considering how long both took to plan then go into production. They were released within months of each other.

And frankly, at a surface-level glance, it might seem like the two are very similar. The Last Broadcast, like Blair Witch, follows a group of filmmakers chasing a myth in the pursuit of a story.

But in the early-era of the internet, this isn’t that surprising. We were only just beginning to explore what we could share online. Deah, mysteries and the supernatural must have been a hotbed for early geeks.

Blair Witch presents the recovered footage in an almost unedited form. But The Last Broadcast takes the Cannibal Holocaust route. We have the footage edited within a documentary.

This documentary is hosted by David Leigh, a bit of a Jonathan Richman but if Richman were an alien introducing a documentary.

David takes the viewers through the story of the murders of the crew of a cable-access show called Fact or Fiction. The show was presented by two hosts trying to track down the answers to their local mysteries. But while it saw initial success, it was on its last legs, desperate for attention. After an anonymous tip from an IRC (no idea what this is), they begin to investigate the story of the Jersey Devil.

The story jumps around the timeline: from after the murder to before the boys first meet their new director, sound guy and psychic, then back to after the murders.

The psychic, Jim Suerd, is the only survivor of the ill-fated journey into the woods. According to the edited footage, he’s erratic and a total con-artist. He’s also the most obvious suspect in the murder: he survived where his friends died, and the police find his clothes covered in blood.

But while David is seemingly convinced Jim is the culprit, Jim dies in jail under mysterious circumstances. Without the number one suspect, can anyone be certain who the killer is?

When David receives sent hours of footage from an unknown sender, he tasks a woman with correcting the footage for him. As the process carries on, we’re pulled closer and closer to the big reveal. In this documentary, nothing is quite as it seems. And we’re left with asking ourselves, “What really is Jersey Devil?”

And you get the answer. Sort of. Only the film gets a bit confused and doesn’t stick its landing. It commits a sin that I really hate in horror movies: when elements of magic or surrealism are introduced too late into the film, not matching the tone of the rest of the film (looking at you, Hereditary). It’s a shame it came out before The Blair Witch Project because it could have learned a lesson from that movie: sometimes less really is more. Leave it to the audience’s imaginations.

But I’m a sucker for a mockumentary. And The Last Broadcast is a pretty solid and enjoyable found-footage film. It’s pretty fun to watch the filmmakers utilize all new digital media, even if I didn’t really understand what was going on.

I can only imagine the story behind its making. It was supposedly made for $900! If anything, watching this movie only solidified the fact that the 90s were really trying new things. The decade doesn’t quite get the credit it deserves.

Wicked Wednesday: Black Roses (1988)

Horror and heavy metal are one of the most iconic pairings. Probably up there with peanut butter and jelly, Laurel and Hardy, and Italians and eyeballs.

Whether it’s intentional or not, the two attract the outsiders. The frustrated people on the fringes. They often share themes and imagery. Unlike say, the punk genre, heavy metal can be more fantastical. Getting to the point: everyone here likes demons.

It’s no accident that Black Roses was released in 1988 in the years following Tipper Gore, the PMRC and the Fifthly Fifteen. Horror often likes to see itself as anti-establishment, and where better to explore that in the 1980s than through metal music?

There’s something dark about metal. Sure it might be because everyone wears black and facepaint. But it’s also a genre that deals with pain and aggression. But instead of making the metal kids the stars, Black Roses looks at what would happen if metal music really was as dangerous and satanic as Tipper claimed.

When an up-and-coming metal band named the Black Roses arrive in Mill Basin, they’re there to cause a stir. Despite being such a large act, the band had supposedly never played out of the studio before. So Mill Basin is the warm-up.

The parents don’t like it. Their town is small and undisturbed with plenty of great kids. Only they’re blind to their own shortcomings, missing the fact that many of the children are lonely and neglected by their parents. But despite their best efforts, the concert series still goes ahead.

The one beacon of light is Mr Matthew Moorhouse, the English teacher. He’s a cool dude. The kids like him. You know, not like those other teachers. He has a framed photo of himself with three students on his wall. He’s a great guy!

Matthew is indeed our hero, but not a very compelling one. Though he does drive a Ford Probe like I used to, so there are some redeeming qualities.

Each night the teenagers go to see the Black Roses, they become more ‘satanic’. And Mr Moorhouse becomes more suspicious. It soon becomes clear that the Black Roses have sinister intentions.

Things escalate pretty quickly in Mill Basin. The teens become lethargic on the first day. But soon demons are climbing out of speakers and killings parents. Girls are trying to sleep with their friend’s fathers. It’s all pretty manic and hilarious in a great, campy way.

But Matthew is there to ruin all the fun…I mean save the day. He’s got to take down the demonic Black Roses if it’s the last thing he does.

In some ways, Black Roses tries to be subversive. It’s for metalheads, but the metal band isn’t who you should be rooting for. You’re rooting for a nerdy dude who gets endless crap from his ex for being a caring teacher.

As a former-ish metalhead, I really dug this one. It’s wild and hilarious. It has some really zany moments with creature effects that reminded me of the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama. Don’t come for the acting, but stay for the utter mayhem.

Wicked Wednesday: Let’s talk about (good) things

After last week’s fiasco, I really wasn’t in the mood to pick out something new for this blog. The last thing I’d want to do is be stuck in a similar situation where I was just moaning and complaining. It’s not cute.

But you know what, I watch loads of great things every week. And in the last month or so, I’ve seen some really great things both horror and non-horror.

Some are new. Some are old. Some are repeat viewings while others I can’t watch to watch again.

HOST (Shudder)

This is the horror movie everyone is talking about right now. Host is one of those movies that when you hear the premise, you can’t help but be wary. When a group of friends get together on Zoom call for a lockdown seance, things begin to go very wrong.

Thankfully, the wariness is completely unwarranted. This is a delightful hour-long found footage movie that packs in the scares with some really great SFX. For those of us on Zoom all day every day, this is sure to keep us up at night.

Opera (Amazon Prime)

I wrote last week that watching Opera felt like such a palate cleanser. While sifting through seemingly endless slasher movies, it’s great to watch a sleek and stylish giallo.

There’s so much tension in Opera that it’s almost painful. Twist after twist keeps you on your toes, as any great Argento film does. Between this rewatch and the passing of the incredible John Saxon, I feel like a rewatch of Argento’s filmography is due.

The Faculty (Amazon Prime)

Is The Faculty a good movie? I don’t know, but it sure as hell is a fun one.

Like many of its contemporaries, this movie is a wonderful bit of 90s cheese. While many films of the era tended to be slasher movies following in the footsteps of ScreamThe Faculty veers slightly by taking a science fiction approach.

The premise is wild: a group of kids in Ohio discover that aliens are taking over their town and must stop them before its too late. If that doesn’t sell it to you, why are you even here?

Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix)

The original Unsolved Mysteries is one of my favourite shows. For one, I love Robert Stack. He and the theme song did all the work setting the mood for that show.

So when I heard that Netflix was releasing a reboot of the series produced by the folks behind Strange Things I was 100% in.

Unlike the original, each episode of the Netflix series follows only one mystery. Some a certainly more worthy than an hour than others. “Mystery on the Rooftop” and “House of Terror” are two highlights for me. That being said, each mystery is certainly intriguing.

Though without a host, Unsolved Mysteries kind of feels like just any other run-of-the-mill true crime show. Still worth watching, but doesn’t quite hold a candle to the original.

Cursed Films (Shudder)

First of all, I want to say that I’m not necessarily recommending the entire series. Honestly, I found it a bit of a mess. It probably would have worked better as one long-form piece. The final episode on The Twilight Zone Movie is incredibly difficult to watch. There are no warnings on the episode, but there certainly should because it’s very distressing.

That being said, watch the episode on The Crow. It’s the most touching and insightful of the series, possibly because it’s the most focused. I loved hearing stories about Brandon Lee from actor Michael Berryman and makeup artist Lance Anderson. Their personal insights were both thoughtful and heartfelt.

The Changeling (Amazon)

So The Changeling is one of the classics that has been on my to-watch list for ages. One of the supposed essentials that always alluded me.

This ghost story was pretty good. Only, I watched this when I was mentally exhausted. For some reason, that mental state meant I was questioning the ghost’s motivations the entire time. I’m not entirely sure that’s what I should have taken away from this movie, but here we are.

It’s clear why this movie is a classic of the genre. It has great atmosphere – possibly the most important piece for a ghost movie. I loved the way this movie looked and sounded. I’m looking forward to rewatching it one day after I’ve had a very long nap.

Grey Gardens (overpriced Criterion Blu-Ray in a Zavvi sale)

This is the odd man out, but I really want to talk about this documentary.

Grey Gardens has been a film I’ve been trying to track down for ages. I finally had to cave and buy myself a Blu-Ray when I spotted it on sale. And man, it was worth the £18.

This 1975 documentary is an absolute classic. Following the lives of “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” (whose real names are both Edith Beale), we get a glimpse into the world of these former socialites. They’re eccentric. They’re a bit gross. They’re the most interesting pair of women that I would love to meet one day.

While this isn’t horror, I really recommend watching this piece of cinema history if you haven’t yet. It’s so worth the watch.

Wicked Wednesday: Twisted Nightmare (1987)

I want to preface this week’s “chat” with a disclaimer: I did not watch this entire movie. There has only been one other time where I couldn’t finish watching something for this blog.

Now. I went into Twisted Nightmare with the best of intentions. For one, can you believe that it’s nearly already August? I’ve lasted nearly all summer without watching a single summer camp slasher! It’s a damn travesty.

So armed with the goal to watch a new-to-me slasher, I began perusing people’s lists of “Best Summer Camp Slashers”. Most of the lists were very standard unless you’ve been living under a very large rock or are very new to the genre.

But Twisted Nightmare stood out to me. Supposedly derivative of the iconic Friday the 13th, I was still willing to give the movie a try.

Turns out, what I got instead of a fun summer slasher was an incredibly dull and racist pile of sludge.

A group of friends all gather together at a campground after being invited for a free stay. There are a lot of people who join so it’s pretty difficult to keep everyone straight. All the white people look like carbon copies of each other. Oh, other than that dude with the serious moustache.

Anyway, there’s a barn. People keep going into the barn and getting killed. It has something to do with someone’s brother dying mysteriously by spontaneously combusting.

Because there are SO many people in this movie, it’s essentially a bunch of scenes of people getting killed off. That’s fine, but it’s usually nice to have a bit of story in between. Also, the death scenes are particularly fun. So if you like watching slashers for their inventive kills, you won’t find that here.

Then we get into the Indigenous burial grounds and “medicine man” nonsense. This is our explanation as to why weird shit is happening. Is the stereotype of its time? Sure. But no matter what the era, it’s pretty lazy writing. With that ‘explanation’ I promptly turned off my TV and am refusing to watch the rest.

Is it fair to review a movie when you haven’t watched the entire thing? No. Probably not. But I also don’t think it’s fair to waste my precious brain cells and time on this silliness.

Don’t get me wrong, I love 80s slashers. Many of them are problematic in various ways. It’s okay to enjoy something as long as you can see and acknowledge its flaws. But if you’re going to be racist and boring and lazy, well, that’s three strikes against you.

To end things on a high note, I rewatched Dario Argento’s Opera this past weekend. That’s a fabulous film. It was also released in 1987, but it’s worlds away from Twisted Nightmare. There’s so much drama and tension in Opera. Watch Opera! 

Wicked Wednesday: Mr Boogedy (1986)

It’s pretty obvious that I love made-for-TV movies. I dedicate every March to talking about one every week. So when I read about Mr Boogedy on a list of strangest movies on Disney+*, I knew I had to watch it.

Disney’s TV movies are pretty iconic. In my household, we always looked forward to the newest one every month. They’re all pretty cheesy and family-friendly, and there are hundreds of them! But some are even as well-loved as their regular releases, Hocus Pocus possibly being the best example.

While I’ve seen a lot of Disney TV movies, I’ve never seen one quite like Mr Boogedy. It’s zany, to be sure – filled with characters you’d never meet in real life.

In the late 80s, it began to be “a thing” to use joke shops and the like as settings. Here we don’t get a shop as a backdrop, but a gag shop owner as our dad. The Davis family love to prank each other.

The odd one out is teenager Jennifer (played by Kristy Swanson). When the family arrive at their new house, she’s immediately wary of it. It’s old and run-down and quite clearly the type of place to be haunted.

When the family enter the home, they find Neil Witherspoon (John Astin) inside waiting for them. He tries to warn them away with stories of Mr Boogedy, but they brush off his warning.

That night, Jennifer hears sneezing coming from a room at the end of the hall. She tries to investigate but faints. When she awakes, she claims that she saw Mr Boogedy. Of course, the family think she’s bonkers, despite the fact that she’s the most level-headed out of all of them. But it’s not too long until the entire family begins to have supernatural experiences.

The Davis children soon realise they need to do something. They go to the local historical society and bump into the eccentric Mr Mitherspoon again. He tells them the story of Mr Boogedy, who once was a pilgrim by the name of William Hanover.

Hanover had apparently fallen in love with a widow. Thing is, though, this old bat hated children, and the window happened to have one. Soon Hanover goes to silly lengths to make the widow his. This does include asking the Devil for a favour to get a magic cloak.

And if that sounds strange, don’t worry. It only gets more bizarre from there.

Mr Boogedy is the type of film that could only exist in the late 80s or early 90s. The family is so whacky and unbelievable. The villain is borderline comical. But…something here just works. It’s the type of light horror that reminds me of the sillier episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Honestly, this movie is a bit dated. But I think it still has thrills that young viewers would find entertaining. It could perhaps be a great option for Halloween when everyone is cooped up and not trick-or-treating.

*If you’re curious, I don’t think Disney+ is worth it. I don’t like Disney movies, Star Wars OR Marvel. So why do I have an annual subscription? Only the Lockdown Gods know. Though because of this error in judgment, expect more write-ups on stuff like Mr Boogedy!

Wicked Wednesday: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

True crime fascinates people. We love it. It’s the reason why we’ve been obsessed with the likes of Ann Rule, Unsolved Mysteries and The Staircase for decades.

My recent not-so-lockdown lockdown obsession has been the My Favorite Murder podcast by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. The only way you haven’t heard about this podcast is if you’ve been living under a rock. For me, I’m so late to the game because I never really got into podcasts in general. Now I’ve got years of content to catch up on.

One of my favourite aspects of the show is the hometown murders where viewers send in their local stories. A story that caught my attention was a series of murders called the Moonlight Murders that took place in Texarkana in the 1940s.

And low-and-behold, I was absolutely chuffed to learn that the pseudo-documentary The Town That Dreaded Sundown was based on these murders. It was a movie I’d been putting off watching for ages, and it finally felt like the right time to watch.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is done in the same style as director Charles B Pierce’s The Legend of Boggy Creek. There’s narration throughout the story that leads views throughout the scenes of destruction.

In the year 1946, the sleepy town of Texarkana is hit by a series of brutal murders. The murderer is a man donning a pillowcase on his head (think Jason’s mask in Part II) who likes to target young couples at lovers’ lane.

The case quickly becomes too big for the small town’s police force and a Texas ranger is brought in to help solve the murder.

The murders are all pretty monotonous until we get to a wonderfully bizarre and out-of-place scene where the killer wields a trombone/knife device! It’s completely out of left-field. But I suppose, if you’re going to be historically inaccurate your motto really ought to be, “Go big or go home!”

The real murders were never solved, and there isn’t much resolution here either. It’s certainly an interesting adaption of a true-crime story. Like The Legend of Boggy Creek, The Town That Dreaded Sundown tries to strike a balance between horror and slapstick comedy.

In my opinion, it doesn’t work very well here. Thankfully Vern Stierman’s narration helps pull the story back into its drama. I think The Legend of Boggy Creek worked better simply because I find mythical animals sillier than real serial killers. Also, there’s no banging tune in this one! That being said, I really do love the faux-documentary style that Pierce used.

Apparently, the film was remade in 2014 with loads of my favourite names attached: Jason Blum,
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Ryan Murphy. The trombone is reported to have made an appearance. I’d certainly be willing to give it a try because, at this point, the true story of the Moonlight Murders seemed to have surpassed facts and into the realm of fantasy.