In 1972, director Charles B. Pierce made a splash with the surprise success of the low budget film, The Legend of Boggy Creek. The movie was presented in a docudrama format and detailed the legend of the so-called Fouke Monster in Boggy Creek just outside Fouke, Arkansas (see Boggy Creek, Arkansas). Pierce lived nearby in Texarkana, Texas and had formerly worked as an advertising salesman before his venture into filmmaking. The Legend of Boggy Creek grossed around $20 million and its gritty documentary-style approach unnerved theatergoers in drive-ins around the country.
In early-1977, Pierce would again return to the docudrama format for the horror film, The Town that Dreaded Sundown. Like The Legend of Boggy Creek, the new film played off another local legend in the area - The Moonlight Murders. The story dated back to early-1946 when the so-called Phantom Killer tormented the city of Texarkana, Texas over a period of a couple months. It started on February 22 with an attack that left two young adults injured but alive. Over the next two months (see March 24 and April 14), four more people were killed at the hands of the unknown assailant and police were desperate for leads. The Phantom Killer struck one more time (this time just across the border in Arkansas) on May 3 that left one victim dead and another in serious condition. The killer was never caught.
The events of 1946 were framed as a pseudo-documentary for The Town that Dreaded Sundown and followed a Texas Ranger as he attempted to crack the case. Much like the realness of The Legend of Boggy Creek caught viewers off-guard, the docudrama approach (complete with a narrator) chilled viewers across the world for Pierce's take on the infamous murders of Texarkana. Today, The Town that Dreaded Sundown is considered a minor cult classic.
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