The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a 1976 horror film based on the infamous murders committed by the still unnamed Phantom Killer (also called the Phantom Killer or Phantom Slayer). The film was directed and produced just thirty years after the crimes were committed in the Texarkana metropolitan statistical area, an area sandwiched between Texas and Arkansas. The series of attacks have now been coined the Texarkana Moonlight Murders, as the killer struck the victims on weekend nights between February and May. As the movie title says, Texarkana truly became a town that dreaded sundown. While the true culprit is yet to be named, there is much lore and theories pointing fingers at various suspects. With almost 400 total suspects brought forward during this case, there was a lot of evidence and statements for the police to parce through.
The film follows the real timeline closely, only taking some artistic liberty in certain areas and changing the names of the victims for privacy. Like reality, the film ends without the Killer being caught. The changes that can be noticed in the film were subtle, often involving a small shift in date or time from the actual event. Its world premier took place in Texarkana, an eerie setting that surely had its audience on the edges of their seats for days. The showing of the film is now a tradition in Texarkana, playing near Halloween at the end of a series of weekly movie showings.
The events led to the production of much more than just the 1976 film, including another 2014 film with the same title, a song by The Bad Detectives titled “Texarkana Moonlight”, numerous books and novels, and more. The 2014 sequel was initially intended to be a remake, but soon became its own film containing references and nods to the original piece. Attention was brought to the case at the local, state, and national levels as communities worked together to catch the killer. Some even tried to trap the Phantom Slayer, baiting him or her into a setup.
If you’re looking for a new horror film to watch, The Town That Dreaded Sundown will haunt you with its chilling storyline. After the movie, be sure to watch the 2014 sequel and read up on the community lore!