All too often were subjected to movies that sound amazing on paper. A strong cast, a great plot, a neat idea or two to mix things up, and of course, familiarity. Sundown has all of this, and more. The only difference between Sundown and most other films, is it actually delivers on it’s promises.
Combining a modern day western with a vampiric twist, Sundown helps itself out by recruiting two very well-liked actors, David Carradine and Bruce “Ash” Campbell. The trick with using actors who come with such star power and fanfare is to not abuse them, and not make the movie all about banking on your stars and resting on your laurels.
And boy oh boy did they get this right. The supporting cast does a great job of filling out the sleepy western town of Purgatory, and the “stars” actually wind up not being in the film that much. Carradine and Campbell are vital to the storyline, but they aren’t the main focus, and that just serves to make their screen time that much more valuable and entertaining. In fact, almost a third of the movie ticks away before either of them pop up on screen, and Sundown benefits from that, letting you start to really understand the plight of the new wave of vampires, their town, and their visitors trapped in the middle of what is no less than a war within the vampire world.
As in any properly done western, you need at least two rival factions, and some people caught in the middle. Sundown provides this with a stunning twist. There is a new group of vampires, led by Carradine (who turns out to be one of the most famous vampires ever, in yet another clever twist) who seek to create synthetic blood, so they don’t have to kill humans anymore to feed. Yes, noble vampires. Also, vampires in Purgatory have super powered sunblock, so they can be in the sun and not die a horrible death. So there is the new guard, let by an old vampire who wishes to seamlessly blend in with humans, and of course there is old guard, who believe it is their vampiric right to hunt the humans, who are “beneath them.” Really good stuff here.
I don’t want to discuss more plot though, for fear I might have already given away some of the juicier bits. There’s a family in the middle that create some really nice drama elements, and have their own believable tie in to the vampire world, but I’ll let you see that one develop for yourself. It comes to a very satisfactory conclusion however, trust me on that.
Good acting from almost everyone on screen. A tight, nearly hole less plot. What about the special effects? Well, this isn’t an overly bloody flick, but we do get a nice decapitation early and a cool exploding body, along with some bullet wounds and the like. This flick ain’t about using gore and blood to overpower the audience. Instead, they use subtle humor that never gets too goofy or campy, charming characters that are vivid and colorful, and again, that dynamite plot to keep pushing things forward. Pacing here also never steps on the movie’s toes, as were never left knowing exactly what’s going to happen but becoming bored waiting for that predictable climax.
I liken this film to some of my other favorites like The Monster Squad, Goonies, and even to a degree the Evil Dead series. There’s that intangible good time 80’s vibe that genre movies since then really haven’t been able to recreate. I mean there is some dark, heavy stuff going on in Sundown, yet you can’t help but go through the whole thing with a smile on your face, enjoying every bit of it. It’s the kind of flick you would show your kids when they are getting a little older, and you want to introduce them to the glory days of horror pictures. It has a timeless, classic feeling to it, doesn’t take itself to seriously, and puts fun ahead of everything else, while simultaneously doing all those other little things right.
Sundown really doesn’t have any major glaring flaws. It’s quick, smart, light-hearted horror fun. Combine that with enough vampire lore and plot twists to satisfy even the most jaded of horror fans, and you have a gem that should skyrocket to the top of your must watch list.
A forgotten classic that should be required viewing.