the best of the rest
Director: Roger Spottiswoode, Script: T.Y. Drake, Cast: Ben Johnson,
Jamie Lee Curtis, David Copperfield
Of the mega film franchises to come out of the late 70's and 80's IE:
Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, this along with
Toby Hooper's Funhouse are what I consider to be 'the best of the
rest'. Actually, they are better than Friday the 13th. Anyhow, this is
the first film for Canadian director Spottiswoode starring the great
'screem queen' Jamie Lee Curtis. Her characterization here is very
similar to her Laure Strode character from Halloween. The movie also
features Ben Johnson from the Wild Bunch. This film is about a group of
pre-med frat boys who decide to pull a prank on a 'geek' at a party.
They give him the impression that Alana (Jamie Lee) wants to have sex
with him. When he goes up in the room it is not Alana in the bed but a
dead cadaver. He goes crazy and is institutionalized. Three years
later, the fraternity has a senior party aboard a passenger train on
new years eve. Someone on the train is killing the passengers and
wearing the masks of the victims.
Great horror slasher film. Although I like a lot of the new horror
-thrillers, the old school horrors are still my fave. This film has
more style than most of the slasher output from this period. The magic
tricks from David Copperfield in his only film appearance was also a
nice added touch as well as the shots of the train rolling across the
dark Canadian countryside. Incidentally, the cinematographer, John
Alcott, did the cinematography on many Stanley Kubrick films. Much of
the suspense and terror comes from the claustrophobia from being
confined on the train. Like Halloween, this film relies on atmosphere
and suspense rather than gore which it has little of. The movie had
some pretty cute chicks but unfortunately for us guys only one is shown
topless and it is just a brief scene. I thought I might add this
because that seems to be expected in these type of movies. Oh well! A
good movie no less..
namc watch Wit Licht movie
Scary and exciting. Great movie.
If It Weren't For J.L.C., Nobody Would Remember This Movie
That's right, I said it. "Terror Train" apparently has a rep as a minor
classic in the slasher genre, but after viewing this rather boring film
last night I'm puzzled as to the reason why, exactly. The only thing I
can think of is that this was part of Jamie Lee Curtis' three film hat
trick that earned her the title of the premiere "Scream Queen" of the
early 80s (the other two films, of course, are the original "Halloween"
and "Prom Night"), and for that it automatically gets a free pass from
horror geeks even though the movie itself isn't very good at all. I'll
grant that "Terror Train" has an original setting and a few decent set
pieces but the finished product was slow moving, filled with annoying
characters and wasn't terribly gory or scary, even by 1980 standards.
Our story opens during a college fraternity's New Year's Eve party in
which a prank on a pledge (involving a corpse in a bed that he thinks
is going to be a real girl) goes horribly wrong and said pledge ends up
institutionalized. Three years later, the same fraternity is throwing
another huge New Year's bash (it is apparently an annual tradition),
this time on a train trip through the mountains. A gaggle of
stereotypical drunk party animals board the train in a variety of
distracting costumes, and as the train leaves the station, we learn
that a homicidal killer has climbed aboard as well, as he kills one of
the frat brothers with a sword, steals his disguise, and leaves him
behind on the tracks.
Once the train is moving, not much happens for a while. Jamie Lee
Curtis' character is still wracked with guilt over her part in the
pledge-hazing fiasco three years before, she argues with the a-hole
frat brother who set up that prank to begin with, then the bodies
eventually start turning up. A kindly old train conducter fills the Dr.
Loomis role (if you catch my drift) when he discovers the first corpse
in a sleeper berth and he spends the rest of the movie trying to keep a
lid on it to avoid mass panic while also trying to figure out who the
killer is. After several more (relatively bloodless, offscreen) kills,
comes the predictable showdown between J.L.C. and the masked slasher.
The problem with "Terror Train" is that even though you'd think a train
would be a pretty claustrophobic setting for a horror film, the killer
is able to roam freely around the cars, some packed with crowds of
people no less, and yet he remains undetected till the middle of the
movie, which doesn't seem terribly realistic to me. Since the
introductory scene pretty much blares a neon sign as to who the killer
is going to be later on, the attempts at making a murder mystery out of
it once the train gets going are unnecessary and somewhat laughable.
(Do they really think we're going to suspect someone else after they
telegraphed it so heavily before the opening credits, for cryin' out
loud?) In addition, there are simply too many characters in this
movie!! The train is packed with what seems to be hundreds of revelers,
yet the body count ends up being rather small by comparison. You don't
need a cast of thousands in a slasher flick. Take eight or ten people
at most, set'em up in an isolated place, and add a nutty killer and
you've got your movie. "Terror Train" seems to have delusions that it's
a high class Agatha Christie murder mystery rather than just another
slasher flick. The cameo appearance by famed magician David Copperfield
(!) as the on-board entertainment seems like it was jammed into the
movie at the last minute just to have a celebrity name attached to the
Though it has a run time of just over 90 minutes, "Terror Train" moves
so slowly that it feels like twice that long. Unless you absolutely
have to see every movie ever made in which stupid teenagers get hacked
up by a masked psycho, feel free to miss this "Train.".