Film: The Town That Dreaded Sundown

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a 1976 docudrama based on the Moonlight Murders.

Post-WWII, the town of Texarkana is plagued by assaults and slayings committed by "the Phantom Killer". Investigating deputy Norman Ramsey is baffled by the first attack on a couple, and when the assailant kills his next two victims, Texas Ranger J.D. Morales is brought in to investigate the crimes. Unfortunately, finding the killer proves difficult...

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Disguised in Drag: After the second attack, several cops disguise themselves as women in order to facilitate a sting operation.
  • Fearsome Foot: Halfway through the film, we are introduced to the killer this way, as he makes his way through town, supposedly running random errands, but in reality, earmarking potential victims.
  • Instrument of Murder: The Phantom stabs a woman to death by using a bayonet attached to a trombone. He plays it to make the blade go in and out of her.
  • Lost in the Maize: Wounded Helen Reed eludes her assailant by crawling to the cornfield next to her house. The Phantom Killer, with a pickaxe in hand, walks after her through the rows, but misses his change to off her as she manages to find sanctuary at her neighbors place.
  • Make-Out Point: The first attacks from the Phantom Killer takes place in these points
  • Man Bites Man: The Phantom Killer, seemingly for no reason other than being batshit insane.
  • Mood Whiplash: Largely courtesy of comic relief Sparkplug. And then there's the trombone murder...
  • My Car Hates Me
  • Too Dumb to Live: The two kids who go out driving through the woods, despite knowing full well that there's a killer out there (by this point in the film, several murders have taken place), then falling asleep. Sure enough, the killer sets upon them.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: After the Phantom Killer gets chased to the bayou, the film abruptly ends, and the narration starts telling what happened to the surviving characters.
  • White Mask of Doom: The Phantom Killer's sack-mask.
  • Yawn and Reach: Sammy tries get his arm around his girl Linda Mae this way at the lover's lane, but she's having none of it. He then resorts to resting his head on her lap.