Before Jason put a bag on his head, before the dreaded Dark Night of the Scarecrow crowed its way onto television screens, there was The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Yes, the title rhymes in a way that rings pleasing to the ears. And yes, the killer does wear a bag over his head while he murders couples on lover's lane jaunts. And yes, it does feature cops in drag. But it's also something of a cult classic that not very many people remember - it's kind of slipped through the cracks, a film that has its fans but also rarely shares the spotlight with the later batch of slashers.
It could be due to its strange tone, though. For the most part, Charles Pierce's thriller is fairly bleak. The film takes on a documentary feel to it, like one of those real-life stories you might see about the Manson killings. The story is delivered by a narrator, one who often likes to give us details we can clearly see on camera (like, "He was holding a gun" as a cop on camera does that very action). The course of events feels like reality television, and it gives The Town That Dreaded Sundown a real sense of dread, because this could be any small town in USA, perhaps even the one that you live in.
It doesn't necessarily jive all of the time, and even with the funny moments The Town That Dreaded Sundown can become bogged down by the investigative druthering. Still, Ben Johnson and Andrew Prine are very good at their policemen roles; they bring a sense of excitement to the case, especially Prine when he responds to the scene of a crime.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown on Rotten Tomatoes